Despite impending closure, morale high at Channing Bete

  • One of the many publications the Channing Bete Company produced.

  • The Channing Bete Company in South Deerfield is reaching the end of a 65-year run. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Thursday, June 27, 2019

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The president of the Channing Bete Company said morale is high and camaraderie is strong among employees ahead of June 30, when the longtime business expects to cease operations.

Michael G. Bete, whose grandfather Channing L. Bete Sr. founded the company in 1954, announced the plans at a company-wide meeting April 9. He said there were “a lot of tears” but he still marvels at the graciousness the 105 employees showed.

“Their response was remarkable, just remarkable,” Bete said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s been humbling. The employees have been as worried about management and the Bete family as we have been about them.”

Bete is pronounced “beet.”

The first position eliminations came June 24, and most employees will be released between then and July 3. Some employees will stay on a bit longer as the company dissolves. The company’s health insurance plan will end July 31. Michael Bete previously said the average tenure of a current employee is 20 years. He said about a dozen have been there at least 40 years, and two have been there for 50.

“People were upset to see this come to an end. They were upset about not only losing their jobs, but mostly, we’re kind of a big family,” he said, calling his workers “a very special group of people.”

Bete said many employees have found employment elsewhere.

The company produced booklets, folders, handbooks, presentations and other publications, usually pertaining to public health and wellness. Its signature products featured the trademarked Scriptography — described as a universal word and graphics style Bete designed to quickly convey key points and help readers retain information. The company eventually had offices in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Japan. Over time, publications were translated into 28 languages. Bete said he has found other companies to market and supply the products the business sells.

The advent of the internet and the lingering effects of the 2008 worldwide financial crisis helped force the company’s closure. Channing Bete is the American Heart Association’s largest distributor, having partnered with the nonprofit organization in 1996. However, the company loses its American Heart Association contract at the end of June, resulting in the June 30 closure date.

Michael Bete expressed gratitude to the Massachusetts Department of Career Services’ Rapid Response team, saying its members “have been angels.”

SR Commercial Realty has been tasked with selling the roughly 100,000-square-foot facility that sits on 40 acres at 1 Community Place in South Deerfield. Michael Bete said there are some parties interested in purchasing the property.

Stoughton native Channing L. Bete Sr. started an advertising agency in 1936, incorporating the business 10 years later. He began writing short booklets on issues such as world peace and how to make the planet a better place. In 1954, that advertising agency became the publishing company known as the Channing Bete Company, which was in Greenfield until 1978.

His son, Channing L. “Joe” Bete Jr., took over in 1967 and the company became a multi-million-dollar corporation over the next 30 years. Michael Bete became president in 1995, when his father retired.