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The Picnic Is Over: Longaberger Company Forced To Sell Assets


It may be the end of the road for The Longaberger Company.

A recent court filing has changed the basket-maker’s bankruptcy case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7. Instead of allowing for a restructuring of the its debts, the company will be forced to sell its assets.

Kent Mallett, watchdog reporter for the Newark Advocate, says the decline of the company started more than 18 years ago with the death of its founder, Dave Longaberger.

“He passed away in 1999. Then there was a recession in 2001, then another one in 07-09," Mallett says. "I think people began to see they could get by without baskets. They weren’t essential. Sales plummeted and lay-offs continued."

That’s led to a drawn-out, public death of the company, with Longaberger’s daughter Tammy resigning as CEO, the company abandoning their iconic basket headquarters, and lawsuits abounding between the Longabergers and creditors.

“In recent years people would often ask me, ‘How is the company still in business?’ The baskets are too expensive, and people were just surprised they were still operating,” Mallett says.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“The company back in 2000, had $1 billion in sales and 8,200 employees,” he says.

And Longaberger had lofty goals.

“He wanted to eventually sell everything for the home and someday get into selling homes themselves,” Mallett says. “The dream was incredible.”

That spirit was infectious. At its height, Longaberger was an essential part of the Newark community, throwing regular home sales and parties.

“Looking back it was more of a fad, but, at the time, it seemed like something that was going to be here for a long time,” he says.

Now that era has ended - with more of a whimper than a bang.

“In the last few years, you don’t hear much about Longaberger," Mallett says. "People have kind of moved on, and for the last several years figured it was a matter of time,” he says.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.