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Hoffco/Comet closes doors, putting dozens out of work
BY MIKE BENNETT • STAFF WRITER • October 20, 2009
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Buzz up!Twitter A manufacturing mainstay in Richmond has closed after 60 years of operations.
Hoffco/Comet CEO John Bratt confirmed Tuesday that the company has closed.
“A year ago, we were profitable and running well,” he said in the empty lobby of the once-booming plant at 358 North West F St.
The business took a devastating hit last October in the midst of the economic downturn.
“Our backlog dropped off 40 percent in a week,” Bratt said. “It had always come back in two to three weeks, but it never has. It’s difficult to lose 40 percent of your business and still survive.”
Hoffco produced lawn and graden equipment, such as tillers, while the Comet brand produced clutches, torque converters and other items for industrial and commercial applications.
Hoffco/Comet had 135 employees about 18 months ago, Bratt said. That total was down by about two-thirds when the closing announcement was made at 3:30 p.m. Monday.
Just a half-dozen cars were parked in front of the building around noon Tuesday.
Terri Shouse, a supervisor scheduler, left after finishing some final tasks.
“It’s very emotional today,” said the 14-year employee. “It’s very hard.”
Bratt said it was difficult to inform employees about the decision. One was celebrating 29 years at Hoffco/Comet. Another had 45 years of experience.
Bratt said the company — which is owned by Tenax Corp. of Indianapolis — has not filed for bankruptcy.
He said four or five people will continue cleaning up and gathering records.
“There are a lot of things we had to do yet,” he said.
Hoffco/Comet sold its building in 2004 and has leased it back ever since.
The closing is an unfortunate sign of tough times, said Richmond mayor Sally Hutton.
“That hurts. We’ve already lost so many,” she said.