Bernard Hill to close after reorganization effort fails Two clothing stores left in 5-store chain

November 17, 1990|By Cindy Harper-Evans

A 1985 file photo in Saturday's Business Section may have given the impression that Stephen L. Snyder, a Baltimore lawyer, was still involved with Bernard Hill Inc., the Elkridge-based clothier that is going out of business. According to Mr. Snyder, he has not been affiliated with the company in any capacity since 1986.

Elkridge-based Bernard Hill Inc., the upscale European men's clothing store chain founded by South African-born Hilly Greenstein 13 years ago in Baltimore, has failed in a year-long reorganization attempt and will close.

Bernard Hill's large flagship store in Hopkins Plaza and its Washington location -- the only stores left in what was once a five-store chain -- are expected to be closed by the end of the Christmas season, the retailer's assigned trustee, Terry Musika of C. W. Amos & Co., said yesterday.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Bernard Hill is now in the midst of a going-out-of business sale and its $2,000 Brioni suits, $1,200 Jeff Hamilton leather coats and other high-priced merchandise is marked down from 50 percent to 80 percent.

Several shoppers rummaged through Bernard Hill's Baltimore store yesterday looking for Christmas bargains or additions to their business wardrobe.

"Hopefully, the Christmas season will enable a lot of this merchandise to get out of the store quickly," a salesman there said.

The retailer filed for Chapter 11 in October 1989 after a lightning-quick expansion left it overextended and financially weak while most other men's apparel chains were prospering.

Joel Kaswell, the lawyer who at tempted to craft a reorganization plan for Bernard Hill, said the plan failed because the downturn in the economy -- particularly for retailers -- took away the capital Bernard Hill needed to work the plan.

"We were planning to pay 10 cents on the dollar to creditors immediately or 35 cents on the dollar over seven years but the dramatic downturn in the retail environment in September made it not feasible," Mr. Kaswell said.

Three of Bernard Hill's largest unsecured creditors are First National Bank of Maryland, North Carolina National Bank and Signet Leasing and Financial in Baltimore. Combined, they are owed about $3 million.

Mr. Kaswell said the realization of Bernard Hill's demise came as a "severe blow" to Mr. Greenstein, who named the classic men's clothing chain after a shortened version of his own first name and the name of his best friend in South Africa.

Mr. Greenstein, who is in his 50s, could not be reached yesterday, but Mr. Kaswell said the founder is still living outside Baltimore and has not decided what line of business he will pursue next.

"His was the American success story" of today, Mr. Kaswell said. "Hilly came to America with very little money from South Africa, he built a good company and he filed for bankruptcy."

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