The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

April 28, 2006

King Louie plant to be sold

By Roger McKinney

Globe Staff Writer

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. - The King Louie International plant in Baxter Spring will remain open, and the 163 employees will keep their jobs under an agreement-in-principle with buyer Michael Lerner.

The company will be renamed King Louie American after the sale, Lerner said. Lerner is the son of Morris Lerner, who, with his brothers, began Lerner Brothers Manufacturing in 1937 in Kansas City. The company that later became King Louie opened in 1946 in Baxter Springs. It had been set to close in June before the announcement of the sale.

"We moved down there in '46 and had many wonderful experiences," Michael Lerner said of his time in Baxter Springs. He said his father retired in 1972, and the family sold the business in 1981.

He said that when he heard the plant was set to close in June, he decided to check into buying it.

"I believe fervently in American-made stuff," Lerner said.

"We have a chance to keep some of it here. I believe there's a strong market for American-made products. It's been a union plant from the start. It's still a good point. So is American-made."

King Louie International, according to its Web site, is a manufacturer of apparel products for the promotional product industry.

Though King Louie officials cited foreign competition in announcing the planned closing, Lerner said the American division always was profitable.

"The market is much smaller, so the business plan is to acquire a larger share of the market," Lerner said.

Lerner said he plans to move the distribution center from Grandview, Mo., to Baxter Springs next year after he builds a warehouse. He said the warehouse would employ 10 or 12 people.

"If we increase our business, who knows how many we will hire," Lerner said. "That presupposes we can find them."

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