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CHAIN HEADS TO LAST ROUNDUP; HOWARD, PHIL TO BE LIQUIDATED.

Byline: Jason Takenouchi Daily News Staff Writer

Hounded by creditors and still struggling years after a bankruptcy reorganization, Howard & Phil's Western Wear is finally hanging up its spurs.

A liquidation firm took control of the company's assets late last week, and it will sell off what remains of the once high-flying western wear empire May 27.

The Canyon Country-based chain was founded in 1962 by Howard and Phyllis McKeon, parents of Rep. Howard P. ``Buck'' McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and four other sons. At its height, the company had annual sales of $38 million.

But the company's road got rough in the mid-1990s, and in 1996 it filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. That plan failed this year when the company did not make required debt payments.

Company spokesman Joseph McKeon was unavailable for comment Monday.

The congressman said through a spokesman that the company's closing was a sad event.

``It's an unfortunate turn of events,'' said spokesman David Foy. ``Congressman McKeon had a lot of fond memories of building Howard and Phil's into a successful business.''

The 1996 bankruptcy filing came after Santa Monica-based Maerich Management Co., the landlord at the company's Antioch store in the bay area, sued the company for breach of contract.

Company officials have blamed their problems on the end of the booming western wear markets in the 1980s and early 1990s. Those spurts - fueled by the rising popularity of country music, line dancing and the movie ``Urban Cowboy'' - fed an expansion to 56 stores by the early 1990s.

Howard and Phil's will be missed as a strong competitor, said Randy King, owner of King's Western Wear Inc. in Studio City.

But the high-flying company's failure highlights the pitfalls of growing too fast, King said.

``Sometimes you can't rule the entire industry,'' he said. ``Sometimes you just have to be good at what you do in your own back yard.''
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 18, 1999
Words:313
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