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Longtime local sign company ceases operations, files Chapter 7



Acorn Sign Graphics headquarters at 4109 W. Clay St. (BizSense File)

Partly because of what he says is a dispute with one of his biggest customers, a local sign company has closed and gone bankrupt.

Acorn Sign Graphics filed for Chapter 7 liquidation on Wednesday and ceased operations.

“While recovering from COVID and supply chain difficulties, the company has been unable to prevail in a dispute over contract payments with its largest customer, LL Flooring (formerly Lumber Liquidators ). The resulting liquidity crisis forced the closure of the business,” Acorn said in a prepared statement.

He added that he hoped to take action against Henrico-based LL Flooring in bankruptcy court.

Based at 4109 W. Clay St., just west of Scott’s Addition, the company in its current incarnation has been owned for nearly 20 years by husband and wife Steve and Beth Gillispie.

“We are deeply saddened by the difficulties of this situation for our stakeholders, 43 employees, suppliers and customers,” the company statement added. “The legacy we hope to remain echoes our vision: to have enhanced the human experience in the built environment and provided a place where our employees could thrive.”

Acorn is represented in its bankruptcy case by Richmond law firm Spiro & Browne.

Its initial bankruptcy filing lists assets of $500,000 to $1 million and liabilities of $1 million to $10 million, owed to nearly 300 creditors. The deposit does not include amounts owed to specific creditors.

The bankruptcy marks the abrupt end of what had been one of the region’s fastest growing businesses. Five years ago, Acorn was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest growing companies with $6 million in revenue.

Some of that growth was fueled by acquisitions, including a deal struck to carve its way into the Northern Virginia market.

The dispute with LL Flooring apparently stems from a soured relationship after the publicly traded flooring retailer hired Acorn to manufacture and install new signage as it moved away from the Lumber Liquidators brand.

At one point during the pandemic, the relationship frayed, with both parties claiming the other owed them money. The sum of money in question was apparently large enough to cause an insurmountable cash crisis at Acorn.

A request for comment sent to LL Flooring was not returned Wednesday evening.

Neither side has yet filed a formal dispute about it.

Acorn is represented in its pre-bankruptcy dispute with LL Flooring by Genevieve Bradley and EG Allen of the law firm Roth Jackson.

“My client has done so much good for his community and his employees and so is saddened to have to pursue bankruptcy protections,” Bradley said in an emailed statement. “My client remains hopeful, however, that his contractual rights can be asserted in the bankruptcy proceedings.”