Century-Old Family Business Files for Chapter 7 Liquidation By JACQUELINE FOX Staff Reporter Studio City-based William A. Peet & Sons, Inc., believed to be one of the oldest businesses in the Valley, has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and its current owner is believed to be in the process of shutting down the family firm launched by his grandfather more than a century ago. Lindsay Peet, 48, who took over the company in the late 1970s, had contemplated selling the business earlier this year after watching sales fall by roughly 40 percent since the 1990s. Peet said he had hoped that sharp reductions in staffing would offset the decline: He slashed 15 full-time positions over the last two years and moved operations to his home in preparation for discussions with potential buyers. Peet declined to discuss the details behind the July 21 Chapter 7 liquidation filing, which, according to public records, shows the company is carrying a $317,000 debt load. When asked to explain the filing, Peet would say only that “it was a more prudent option,” deferring comment until after a bankruptcy hearing scheduled for sometime after Labor Day. However, industry representatives say increased competition over the last decade from non-union workers, coupled with the escalating costs of workers’ compensation, have presented extreme challenges. “Actually, right now our members are doing well because summer is a busy time,” said Chris Sandquist, office manager for the Burbank Chapter of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 761. “But the last few years, times were bad. There was no work. And, a lot of our members have lost jobs to non-union companies, because their fees are lower and they don’t have to pay such high costs for insurance.” The 103-year-old Peet firm was founded in 1900 when Lindsay’s grandfather William Peet set up shop in Koreatown. William Peet later passed the business down to his son, Harold, who moved it to the Valley in 1939. Harold Peet’s son, Gaynor later took over the company and his sons Lindsay and Dennis joined in the 1970s. But poor sales, coupled with disagreements between the three over their father’s management style and the future of the company, prompted Lindsay to buy his father and brother out in the late 1980s. Lindsay told the Business Journal in April that he likened selling the family firm to “cutting off a limb,” and said he had a great deal of concern for his long-time employees and regret over not being able to preserve the family legacy. But Peet also pointed out that he had no heirs in line to take over the business and that he was ready to move in another direction. The fact that Peet & Son’s managed to survive four generations of ownership is remarkable, even for an industry beset by rising insurance costs and widespread competition. Statistics suggest that 95 percent of all family businesses in the United States never make it past the third generation.