American TV & Appliance closing all 11 stores; 989 will lose jobs [The Wisconsin State Journal :: ]
(Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 17--American TV & Appliance, a Madison Beltline mainstay for the past 60 years, announced Monday it was closing its business, putting 989 employees in 11 locations out of work.
Doug Reuhl, president and CEO of American since 1988, blamed an unforgiving economy, especially over the past five years, for the closure and said the company would begin a going-out-of-business sale Thursday to liquidate its entire inventory of furniture, electronics and appliances.
"While this is a sad moment, it is also a proud moment," Reuhl said in a news release. "It's a moment to be proud of our efforts and to be proud of what we have delivered to the community."
A switchboard operator at American TV refused to answer additional questions Monday or transfer a reporter to anyone else, noting the company had decided not to provide any additional information, including how many jobs will be lost in Madison.
American TV's 11 locations are in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa, including two in Madison: 2404 W. Beltline Highway and at 5215 High Crossing Boulevard.
The company's news release contained no details about the number of employees affected locally, but said all employees received advance notice of the closure and would be compensated, with benefits, through a "notification period" that was not further described or defined. The company also said "most employees" would continue working through the "closing process," but did not reveal how long that's expected to be or give a final store closure date.
Concerning the open-ended going-out-of-business sale, the company said American TV would continue to "fully serve" customers during this time, including:
--Honoring gift cards and providing refunds to customers who don't want to redeem them.
--Considering all extended warranty policies purchased by customers valid and insured through a third-party insurance company.
--Providing all customers with open orders either a delivery of their goods or a refund of their deposit.
--Repairing or returning to customers all products in the company service center prior to the closing.
The company also reported Monday that is filing a Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 128 Receivership for the protection of its creditors. Michael Polsky will be appointed as the receiver for the business.
In a 2008 story for Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, Milwaukee bankruptcy expert Jeffrey L. Murrell described Ch. 128 as an "old, but still little-known, alternative to bankruptcy" that Murrell said should be explored for clients who "have more debt than they can handle, wish to repay, and need the help of a structured plan to get back on their feet."
In the news release Monday, Reuhl expressed thanks to its "millions of loyal customers" and to its "dedicated family of employees" over the years.
In March, the retailer announced it was discontinuing sales of a number of small electronics items, including computers, cameras and car audio systems.
American TV vice president Paul Kollberg at that time told a State Journal reporter via email that the decision was part of the company's continual review of its business model and product offerings to "address the changing retail landscape."
"In our latest review," he said in the March e-mail, "we've identified a few categories that are simply very mature or challenged, or that are being significantly impacted by smartphone technology."
Kollberg at that time said American TV stores would convert the space formerly used for those items to demonstrate new technologies such as 4K TV and to increase display space for furniture for sale.
And before that, in June 2011, American TV announced it would leave the St. Louis market, citing the down economy for the closure of four stores in that area and a distribution center. Liquidation sales also were held for those Missouri store closings -- in O'Fallon, Bridgeton, Fenton and Cottleville, plus the distribution center in Earth City, Mo. -- but the company at that time declined to say how many jobs were eliminated.
"The effects of the recession in St. Louis got too difficult for the business to sustain," company spokesman Stephen DeShong said in June 2011.
Former American TV head Len Mattioli could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
Mattioli, 70, known for his wild store promotions and commercials, retired from the company about five years ago and in March opened an electric bicycle store on Odana Road in Madison.
In the news release Monday, company officials said the last five years had been "very difficult for our industries," adding they would be "closing our business forever" after completing the final sale.
"We have fought hard, valiantly and with great integrity," the news release said. "We are proud of our efforts but the economy has been unforgiving."
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