Squire Shop Closing Its Doors -- Liquidation Sale Starts Today In All Locations

The Squire Shop, a Seattle retail institution known as much for its hydroplane as its casual menswear, begins a going-out-of-business sale today.

Late yesterday, the 34-store chain - which includes 12 Natural Selection stores - received permission from bankruptcy court to liquidate its assets. The chain had filed for bankruptcy reorganization in mid-January, but decided to liquidate instead, possibly to salvage some of the chain.

Company owner George Wade said he hoped to save the Natural Selection division, which carries clothing for young men and women.

But he said financing for a Seattle-area chain in today's economic climate was "as scarce as hen's teeth." He is talking with various parties interested in buying the Natural Selection division and other potential buyers for Squire Shop locations.

The liquidation sale gives Squire Shops "some time yet to find somebody," Wade said. But, he conceded, "If nobody writes a check, we will liquidate all stores."

Others close to the situation said Squire Shop had been looking for buyers for some time, without success.

In its heyday in the late 1970s, the Squire Shop was among the most profitable retail businesses in Seattle, said Wade, who bought into the business in 1986 and became sole owner a few years ago. In 1978, the Squire Shop became the principal sponsor of the Seafair hydro race, which had been in jeopardy for several years because of a lack of funds.

That year, the race was renamed The Squire Shops Unlimited Hydroplane Regatta.

The chain's hydroplane, Squire Shop, raced until the mid-1980s, often with driver Chip Hanauer at the wheel. After the boat was retired, the company occasionally brought it to shopping malls where it had stores, as a promotional tool.

The liquidation sale is expected to generate $2.25 million, according to Karen Overstreet, a lawyer representing Seafirst, the principal creditor, which is owed about $7 million. Squire Shops declined comment on the value of leases or the amount it might recover by getting creditors to return payments made within 90 days of the bankruptcy filing.

When Squire Shops filed for reorganization, it listed about $6.6 million in assets and $9.5 million in liabilities.

Wade blamed the chain's situation partly on poor Christmas sales. Many of the company's suppliers went out of business last year, he said, leaving the company with less inventory than it had expected and little ability to order supplies elsewhere.

But others in the retail industry say the company failed to stay on top of trends, a major mistake in an industry where fashions change quickly.