Chain buys 3 Catbird Seat stores

Alumni Hall Stores is buying the three CatBird Seat locations in Lexington and Louisville from Dawahare's of Lexington for $296,000.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joseph Scott approved the sale Friday and Alumni Hall's owner, Jeff Goodfriend, said the Knoxville company will open in those locations “as soon as possible.”

Alumni Hall, like the CatBird Seat, sells clothing and other merchandise for college sports fans and alumni. Goodfriend said the company definitely wants the stores open before the University of Kentucky-University of Louisville football game on Aug. 31.

“We have been dying to get up into that market,” he said. “We know the fans are passionate just like they are here” in Knoxville.

Goodfriend said Alumni Hall stores are “somewhat similar” to the CatBird Seat.

“We develop a lot of our own stuff,” especially decorations for T-shirts and other apparel, he said. “We also carry a few more, or different, brands than they did.”

The CatBird Seat stores are at Fayette Mall in Lexington and Springhurst Towne Center and Mall St. Matthews in Louisville. They will have a total of 40 to 50 employees, depending on the time of year, Goodfriend said.

Alumni Hall won the right to buy the locations in an auction held Wednesday by Dawahare's bankruptcy attorneys at the Lexington firm of Bunch & Brock.

Dawahare's, which saw its sales slide from $46.4 million in 2005 to $42.45 million in 2007, blamed the economy and competition for woes that included $9.3 million in debt. The company originally planned to close nine stores and continue with the three CatBird Seats and 19 Dawahare's clothing outlets, but it was unable to get financing to continue operations.

W. Thomas Bunch told the bankruptcy court there were 117 rounds of bidding that began with an offer by iVisionary LLC of Lexington and continued with increases of at least $1,000 until Alumni Hall was declared the winner.

With the former CatBird Seat stores, Alumni Hall will have 12 locations: four in Tennessee, three in Kentucky, two in North Carolina and one each in Alabama, Georgia and Virginia.

The company's next new store might be in Bowling Green, Goodfriend said.

Goodfriend is the son of Robert Goodfriend, former head of Goody's Family Clothing stores, which began bankruptcy reorganization shortly after Dawahare's filed in May.

Robert Goodfriend, whose father founded Goody's in Tennessee in 1953, did TV commercials for Goody's that were shown in Lexington.

In another familial twist, Jeff Goodfriend said he bought Alumni Hall about 14 months ago from Jimmy Dawahare, a member of the family that operated Dawahare's of Lexington for 101 years.

“He's still with our company,” Jeff Goodfriend said. “It's a small world.”