Botany 500 To Pack Up Its Suits, And 130 Jobs The Manufacturer Of Business Suits Will Shut Its N. Phila. Plant And Take Its Business To Latin America.

Posted: September 15, 1995

Botany 500, a name as long linked to Philadelphia manufacturing as it is to conservative American business suits, will end its connection to Philadelphia within the next 60 days, when it closes its plant on North Broad Street, union officials say.

More than 130 jobs will be lost when the plant, at 640 N. Broad St., shuts down, said John Fox, manager of the Philadelphia Joint Board of the Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

The 500 Fashion Group, a division of Botany 500, will also close its two factories in the Allentown area, Fox said. All told, he said, the shutdowns will put about 600 people out of work.

Company officials could not be reached for comment. But Fox said the manufacturer was eliminating all its factories in the United States and would instead import clothing made in Mexico and Costa Rica.

The only other 500 Fashion Group factory, in Hialeah, Fla., closed several months ago, he said. As recently as last year, the company employed 1,100 people in all its plants.

Fox said that in a letter from the plant's owners Tuesday, the union was given 60 days' notice that the plant would close. But the announcement came as no surprise.

"About a month ago, they sat down with us and said they couldn't compete," Fox said. Since then, he said, the union has been trying unsuccessfully to help find a buyer for the plant.

Fox said the average union worker at the factory earned about $8.50 an hour. In their place, he said, the company will make use of Costa Rican workers paid 50 to 70 cents an hour, and Mexican workers paid between 70 cents and $1 an hour.

"It's a sad, sad situation," said Fox, who is also a vice president of the international union. "There are going to be 600 people out looking for work. They won't find it in the apparel business."

The North Broad Street plant, which made pants to go along with jackets made in the Allentown-area plants, has been operating since the 1980s, Fox said.

Its opening then was a sign of how the U.S. clothing industry was already

shrinking. The factory replaced a huge plant at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue, where suits were made for a generation of American businessmen who grew up during the Depression and World War II.

The company's fortunes got a well-publicized boost as recently as 1992, when GUM, the legendary Moscow department store, chose to import Botany 500 suits to sell to Moscow's post-Cold War business class.

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