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Fuller Brush files for bankruptcy protection

By Mae Anderson
AP Retail Writer / February 22, 2012
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NEW YORK—The Fuller Brush Man is calling ... on bankruptcy court.

Fuller Brush Co. is filing for bankruptcy protection, decades after its fleet of salesmen popularized door-to-door selling in the U.S.

The company, known for its brushes, brooms and cleaning products, launched the phrase "I'm your Fuller Brush Man" into the national vernacular and was once so well known that it spawned a 1948 feature film starring Red Skelton called "The Fuller Brush Man." Fuller Brush men traveled door-to-door with suitcases full of brushes, personal care and cleaning products.

Rev. Billy Graham, television emcee Dick Clark, baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and actor Denis Quaid are among former Fuller Brush men, the company claimed in a 2007 statement.

Today, the 106-year-old company has just 180 employees, mostly at its Great Bend, Kan., headquarters. It said it expects to cut costs and discontinue some unprofitable products to emerge a leaner, more profitable company. It plans to continue to develop new ways for selling its products as it reorganizes. Private equity firm Buckingham Capital Partners bought the company from CPAC Inc. in 1997. CPAC also is filing for bankruptcy protection.

Fuller Brush's assets and debts each amount to between $10 million and $50 million.

"After careful consideration of Chapter 11 at this time, the board of directors and senior management team believe this is a necessary step and the right thing to do for the future success of the company," Chief Restructuring Officer Lawrence Perkins said in a statement.

The company, founded in Connecticut in 1906 by Alfred C. Fuller, now sells personal care and household cleaning products directly and through retailers such as Byerly's and Home Depot. It recently tried to update its image with a new website and kitchen and bathroom cleaners. It also expanded its relationship with retailers including Publix markets and Orchard Supply Hardware.

But that was not enough to keep it out of bankruptcy. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

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