Enfield, Conn. - Bernie's, the New England A/V, appliance and furniture chain, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will begin liquidation sales on Jan. 15.
Hilco Merchant Resources will conduct the fire sales, pending approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut, which is expected to hear the case today.
Bernie's operates 15 big-box stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. According to TWICE's Top 100 Retailers Report, it sold approximately $63 million in CE in 2008, up 1.6 percent from the prior year, placing it at No. 80 on the CE chart. The chain had $53 million in major appliance sell-through, down nearly 12 percent from 2007, and ranked 36th on the TWICE Majap Top 100.
Bernie's did not attend International CES last week and withdrew its membership from the NATM Buying Corp. NATM president Bill Trawick called it a "tragedy" that a company of that size is struggling, and described the situation as an unfortunate sign of the times. "It's very, very tough out there and I hope this trend doesn't continue," he told TWICE earlier this week.
Bernie's president/COO Mike Honeyman formally left the company earlier this month, following the departure of marketing and merchandising VP John Schlenner and a number of the chain's buyers.
The retailer was founded as a gas station in 1947 by Bernie Rosenberg. The company was bought by Newmark & Lewis in 1985, and was re-acquired six years later by Rosenberg's son Milton, who re-built the business from a two-store operation into a regional chain with plans to expand into Boston and beyond.
Calls to CEO Rosenberg were not returned.