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Crown Crafts to Sell Churchill Weavers

Crown Crafts Inc. has cut a deal to sell Churchill Weavers, its 85-year-old hand-woven throw business, to Bedford Cottage, a newly formed, New Hampshire-based producer of throws and knit products.

E. Randall Chestnut, Crown chairman and ceo, said his company had signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell Churchill, based in Berea, Ky., to Bedford Cottage, subject to financing and due diligence.

Bedford Cottage, based in Manchester, N.H., was founded last year by former managers of Kennebunk Weavers, a veteran producer of decorative throws now owned by PerfectFit Industries.

Under the terms of the deal, Bedford Cottage will buy all of Churchill's assets except land and buildings, which will be leased to Bedford, and assume all of Churchill's current liabilities.

Churchill Weavers was founded in 1922 by the Churchill family of Kentucky and remained in family hands until it was sold to Lila and Richard Bellando, who subsequently sold the company to Crown Crafts in 1996 and continued to manage it under Crown ownership.

"This one's tough," Chestnut told Home Textiles Today. "This company was my pride and joy. They made a gorgeous hand-woven product, as beautiful as anything anyone makes."

But hampered by low-cost imports, sales declined and profits evaporated. "Churchill has experienced a continuous decline in sales and incurred operating losses" during the 2006 fiscal year and through the first six months of the 2007 fiscal year, said Chestnut. After an operating loss of $402,000 for all of 2006, Churchill has reported an operating loss of $341,000 through the first half of the new fiscal year.

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