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VOL. 126 | NO. 137 | Friday, July 15, 2011

County Bankruptcy Filings Fall Slightly

By Aisling Maki

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The total number of bankruptcies filed in Shelby County has slowly declined over the last two years.

All chapters combined – Chapters 7, 11 and 13 – amounted to 2,904 Shelby County bankruptcies in the second quarter of 2011, down 1.2 percent from 2,939 in Q2 2010 and down 5 percent from 3,056 in Q2 2009.

United States Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Tennessee, has offices in Memphis and Jackson, Tenn. However, the data in this report include only ZIP codes within Shelby County. In effect, it examines the number of bankruptcies filed by Shelby County debtors in local bankruptcy court.

Memphis bankruptcy attorney Jimmy McElroy of Jimmy McElroy & Associates said his filings are down slightly so far this year.

“There are only so many houses that can get foreclosed on,” McElroy said. “So many people have lost their houses, and it’s harder to qualify now. I don’t think the economy has turned around. They’ve just run out of people who’ve defaulted.”

McElroy said he expects things to remain fairly stable for the remainder of the year.

“In the next quarter, I’m predicting maybe a slight decline, but not a dramatic decline,” he said.

Chapter 13 bankruptcies, or “wage-earner” cases, which involve a court-ordered debt repayment plan, fell slightly to 2,123 in Q2 from 2,183 in Q2 2010, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.

June saw the highest number of Chapter 13 filings in the county with 769. May had 686 filings and April had 668.

Westwood’s 38109 ZIP code led Chapter 13 filings with 195. It was followed by Frayser’s 38127 with 176, Whitehaven’s 38116 with 175, South Memphis’ 38128 with 168 and Oakhaven/Parkway Village’s 38118 with 167.

However, Chapter 7 bankruptcies, filed by the most hard-pressed debtors who usually get to wipe away most of what they owe, rose slightly in Shelby County to 771 in Q2 from 742 in Q2 2010.

June saw the most Chapter 7 filings with 271, while April recorded 263 and May saw 237.

Hickory Hill North’s 38115 and Bartlett’s 38134 saw the most Chapter 7 filings in Shelby County, with 45 filings each, followed by Southeast Shelby County’s 38125 with 40 and Arlington’s 38002 with 37. Cordova North’s 38016, Oakhaven/Parkway Village’s 38118 and Whitehaven’s 38116 had 35 filings each.

On the businesses side, Chapter 11, or reorganization, bankruptcy filings saw a 28.6 percent decline in Shelby County, with 10 in Q2 compared to 14 in Q2 2010.

A wide range of businesses filed for bankruptcy in Shelby County in the second quarter, including auto repair shops, financial services groups, hair salons, restaurants, and painting, remodeling and construction businesses.

One of the most notable business bankruptcies in the second quarter was that of SONFISH LLC, one of the largest Captain D’s franchisees in the country, with 21 restaurants in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Though operating partner Joe Guido declined comment when the company declared Chapter 11 in late May, SONFISH attorney Jonathan Scharff said the company, “like others, has been hit hard by the recession, and they aren’t able to make each of the locations profitable.”

He said the company would shut down between four and six locations while continuing to operate about 15 others.

Scharff said that there was no guarantee that all 363 jobs would be saved, but that the company would do its best to transfer employees from closing businesses to other locations.

Another notable Chapter 11 filing that came in late May was that of 5325 Summer Ave Properties LLC.

Estimated assets were listed as between $1,000,001 and $10 million, and unsecured creditors listed included include Barton Commercial Realty; Bridgeforth & Buntin PLLC;

Attorney Guthrie Castle; Merchants & Farmers Bank; and Starlanding Landscaping. The city of Memphis and the Shelby County trustee were also named as creditors.

Managing member Curtis Wegener, listed as the debtor of the business, had in 2009 signed a construction deed for 310 Beale St., and had, along with Hurricane Memphis LLC, defaulted on a 2001 construction loan for $2.6 million. Wegener was listed as manager and a member of 310 Beale Street Properties.

PROPERTY SALES 38 38 12,796
MORTGAGES 27 27 8,030
BUILDING PERMITS 137 137 30,071
BANKRUPTCIES 44 44 6,108