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Spartan's Leonard keeps fighting

SPARTANBURG, SC — Even though parent Spartan International closed its doors last Friday, ceo Barry Leonard said he's still battling to keep the company's fledgling retail business afloat, and hopes that some kind of deal can be put together in the next few weeks.

Only hours after the 111-year-old Spartan shut its doors forever, Leonard told Home Textiles Today, "We are currently in negotiations with people who are trying to do a deal to take the retail business private. We're real proud of what we accomplished with that business and want to keep it going if we can."

In little more than 18 months, Leonard took the business from ground zero to annual sales in the range of $12 millions, supplying bath rugs, shower curtains, towels and storage equipment to customers like Kohl's and Sears.

As for the negotiations, he said: "If that doesn't work, we'll work hard to turn pieces of the business over to other suppliers so that our customers don't get hurt. Our customers have really been wonderful. They've been supportive of this brand new company, and we don't want to let them down."

And further down the road? A candid, "I don't know. But one thing I can tell you, I will be back in this industry one way or another, in one capacity or another. I love this business, it's been my life, and I'm not about to leave it."

Sounding like a hardened survivor, Leonard made it plain that as tough as it's been, he has no regrets. "This hasn't been easy. We've been trying to save this company and keep it alive. We've been working with the banks, selling off pieces, doing whatever we had to do. But I don't for a minute regret coming here. The Montgomery family has been wonderfully supportive all the way; they've just been really great to work with, and it's been great to be a part of that team. I don't regret it for a moment. And don't worry, I'll be back."

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