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J.L. Hammett/Hammett's Learning World is going under


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crimson

crimson

    evil little piggy & tease?

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Sad. Liquidation sales upcoming.

Oldest school supply co. closing stores

December 31, 2004

BRAINTREE, Mass. --J.L. Hammett Co., the country's oldest school-supply company -- whose founder invented the blackboard eraser -- is closing its 52 retail stores nationwide after 141 years.

The Braintree-based company will continue to sell merchandise on its Web site, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy reported.

"We've been in business quite a long time through our retail stores and catalog, and it was a difficult decision we had to make," company president Richmond Holden Jr. said.

Holden's family was among the investors who bought the company from John L. Hammett in 1890. Holden said the company had hoped a strategy of moving its stores from enclosed malls into strip malls would boost sales, but the results didn't come quickly enough.

"We just ran out of time ... to get that done," Holden said. "It's gotten expensive for us to operate."

He declined to comment on the number of employees who would lose their jobs.

Holden said the company has been hurt by shrinking school budgets.

"Teachers over the years have spent a lot of their own money with us," he said. "The economy has made it difficult for them to spend as much as they were before, so that's the reality."

J.L. Hammett ceased manufacturing in the early 1980s. It sold its catalog and wholesale business to School Specialty Inc. in 2000 for $82 million.

Its retail stores are in 17 states, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Most operate under the name Hammett's Learning World.

The company was founded in 1863 by Hammett, an author of grammar books and a publishing house representative. Back then, public school students didn't use paper, which was costly. Instead, pupils did their lessons on small slate boards.

During a presentation, Hammett picked up a carpet remnant from his office to clean his slate and found it worked better than the cloth he had been using. The chalkboard eraser was born when Hammett and his assistant started nailing pieces of carpet to blocks of wood.

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