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Pyke Manufacturing Co., makers of the Pykettes line of clothing and a Utah company that traces its roots back nearly a century, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in U.S. District Court Bankruptcy Court for Utah.

Among other things, the company indicated it may have fallen victim to the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1993 by Congress and signed by President Clinton.Company chairman Ernest D. Mariani said operations at the clothing manufacturing operation, based at 1367 S. 700 West, will continue "for an indefinite period" while a plan of reorganization is worked out.

He said the Chapter 11 filing "will ensure that all creditors, including employees, will be treated fairly and every effort will be made, with court approval, to commence payment of the company's indebtedness at the soonest opportunity."

Mariani said he, directors and employees "deeply regret" that the bankruptcy filing was necessary, particularly at the onset of the holiday season.

He noted that Pyke has been in business for 96 years. The company began as a novelties wholesaler but eventually evolved into manufacturing coordinated sport apparel for women.

Mariani cited a declining demand for Pyke products, lower product bookings, increased overhead, lack of adequate operating capital and "especially the advent of foreseen competition as a result of NAFTA . . ." for the business downturn.

Under the U.S. bankruptcy code, notices will eventually be sent out regarding the time and place for a meeting of creditors and the filing of claims for affected individuals and companies. Pyke will continue to operate as a "debtor-in-possession" and will file a proposed plan of reorganization within the 120-day period mandated by law.

Morris Smith, president and chief operating officer for Pyke, said the company's two Pykettes Factory Outlet stores at 5690 S. Redwood Road and 1497 S. 700 West will remain open while the bankruptcy proceeds.

Some 400 people are employed throughout the organization at this time, but that number will be reduced during the reorganization, said Smith.

"There will be some people who we will have to let go, but we don't know who they will be or how many, right now."

Smith said Pyke Manufacturing is not a publicly owned company but does issue stock. The majority of the shares are owned by members of the Pyke family.

Smith stressed that the bankruptcy filing does not affect other businesses owned by Mariani.