Barrier’s files Chapter 11 and plans to liquidate (updated version)

WICHITA — Barrier’s, the longtime jewelry and gift store on the northeast corner of Douglas and Oliver, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy with $938,788 in liabilities and $2,815,582 in assets.

“We have made a Chapter 11 filing, and now we’re in the process of planning our next steps,” says Mary Ellen Barrier.

Barrier says she can’t say whether the bankruptcy means the store will close or sell.

“I just do not know yet,” she says. “All these final decisions have not been made.”

According to the bankruptcy filing, though, the store is having a liquidation sale.

“There’s a teachable moment here,” says Barrier’s attorney Ed Nazar.

“We’ve lost an icon for Wichita, and I feel very sad about that. And we’ve lost that icon for two reasons.

“One: the overall economy. And two: the lack of succession planning for a small business, and to me that’s the important teaching tool.”

Barrier’s husband, John, joined the business in the mid 1930s a few years after his father, Carl, started it with a jewelry case in a downtown building.

After John Barrier’s death in 1992, his son, Jay, became president. Jay Barrier died from an accident in October 2008.

The bankruptcy filing says the family decided to liquidate with a sale beginning in November and ending in early 2010.

But Mary Ellen Barrier says that may or may not happen.

“We haven’t made a lot of final decisions yet,” she says.

She will say Barrier’s is getting ready for a sale, though.

“We look forward to seeing all our friends and customers at that time,” Barrier says.

As for the bankruptcy, she says, “We regret doing it very much.”

According to the filing, Barrier’s had $3 million in sales in 2008. It’s current inventory is listed at $1.6 million.

Of the largest 20 unsecured claims in the filing, Barrier’s next-door neighbor, Citizens Bank of Kansas, has the largest claim at $82,658.

“Everything’s going to work out,” says Jane Deterding, Citizen’s executive vice president and general counsel. “We don’t have any concern.”

Deterding says Barrier’s assets are greater than its liabilities, which is why she’s confident everything will be OK.

“Obviously, we’re sad that we’re losing a neighbor that’s been . . . the centerpiece of that corner for years and years and years,” Deterding says.

“That’s been the constant on the corner. And they’ve been very good neighbors.

“We’re going to miss them that way.”