Aero Housewares LLC is out of bankruptcy and on an acquisition hunt, which most recently meant buying certain assets of Chicago-based molder JR Plastics LLC dba Stylemaster Inc.
``We probably have a twinkle in our eye for [acquiring something] in 2006,'' Jeff Goldberg, Aero chief executive officer and president, said in a Dec. 16 telephone interview from the firm's headquarters in Leominster, Mass. ``We're looking to acquire to grow sales, but also to further strategy.''
It's been a rough-and-tumble year for housewares injection molders, with several bankruptcy filings and attempts at reorganization leading into liquidation, such as in the case of Cornerstone Products Inc. of Durant, Okla.
Aero Plastics Inc. filed for bankruptcy in January. In August, Goldberg agreed to acquire the assets of Aero for $11.5 million, according to court documents, with backing from CapitalSource Finance LLC of Chevy Chase, Md. The transaction was finalized in September.
Goldberg organized Aero Houswares LLC to acquire the assets of Aero Plastics. Aero Plastics continues as a separate entity and is in the process of liquidation. Aero Housewares acquired the molds and customers of StyleMaster, which for years was embroiled in its own financial mess, filing for bankruptcy for the second time in 2002.
Martha Williams, the founder of Stylemaster, did not return a call seeking comment.
Stylemaster's business gives Aero more proprietary design in its product mix, which is the strategy Aero now is pursuing, Goldberg said. Aero makes food storage containers and larger storage totes, and has sold to major retail outlets across the country, including K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Linens N Things, Home Depot and Dollar General.
``The customers knew that name [Aero],'' Russ Brillon, Aero's chief financial officer, said by telephone Dec. 13. ``So we wanted to get the continuity for the customers. It is clearly our intent to be in the business, to manufacture our proprietary lines, we need to do it as everybody hopes they can do it - better, faster, more efficiently.''
Brillon most recently served as vice president of finance for Plastican Inc. of Leominster, and he has held positions with Tucker Housewares, which is another casualty in the history of plastics housewares.
Other members of the management team include Barry Etra, chief operating officer; Steve Waugh, director of operations; and Heather Plaster, director of sales and marketing.
Goldberg said Aero will continue to operate a headquarters in Leominster with its main manufacturing site in Atlanta. The company is set up to mold products in Leominster, but that site is idled for now. The company will pursue a strategy similar to those of other molders by augmenting domestic manufacturing with some imported products.
``One of the things we hope to do is remain a lean, low-cost producer and maximize the right level of sales volume over fixed costs,'' Goldberg said. ``It's even more important in plastic housewares, you don't have any room for error.''
Retailers now also are a little more flexible than they were in 2003, where today manufacturers sometimes are able to get price increases accepted.