Henderson Closes Doors After 60 Years

ATLANTA Henderson Advertising, which had struggled for the past decade amid client defections and an inability to reinvent itself, closed Monday, idling 42 workers and ending 60 years as a fixture on the local agency scene.

The closing surprised many observers in the close-knit Greenville, S.C., advertising community. The first notice most had of the closing was a recorded message on the independent shop’s office telephone: “Henderson Advertising officially closed on April 3, 2006. Thank you.”

Ralph Callahan, Henderson’s chairman and CEO who did not return calls, did issue this statement today: “We have ceased operations and closed our doors effective April 3. We are conducting an orderly liquidation but not bankruptcy. And that’s all I can tell you because of ongoing litigation at this time.”

The nature of that litigation was not immediately known, but sources said it pertains to the shuttered shop’s financial condition.

The agency had lost several accounts in the past three years, including Gold’s Gym, SouthTrust Bank and Costa Del Mar sunglasses, without adding any clients of comparable size.

The shop in recent months had attempted to add more business from its largest client, DaimlerChrysler. (Henderson worked on the client’s estimated $30 million commerical vehicle account.) That additional business never came, however, and senior management determined the enterprise was no longer viable, sources said.

Andy Mendelsohn, executive creative director at Henderson for five years until he joined crosstown rival Erwin-Penland a year ago, said Henderson had been struggling for the past decade since losing its Texize cleaning products business.

“They’ve been trying for the past decade to dig out of that hole,” Mendelsohn said. “They tried to become something else and it didn’t work.” He added: “It’s a sad thing for everyone in town.”

Part of that attempt to re-invent itself included buying Mainline Marketing Communications, a public relations firm, in 2003 and Resolutions, an event marketing company, in 2004.

Peyton Burke, past president of the Greenville Ad Club, said other local agencies, including Erwin-Penland (a unit of Interpublic Group’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston) and Bounce, will be able to offer jobs to some of the displaced workers but not all of them.

“It’s certainly a shock for all of us,” Burke said. “It’s not good for the advertising community here. They will be missed.”