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Ithaca Gun closes after 124-year run

Mired in debt and struggling to compete, the Ithaca Gun Co. has ended production after more than a century in business.

"We're just tapped out, we can't do it any longer," Andrew Sciarabba, one of seven investors who own Ithaca Gun Co., told The Post-Standard of Syracuse.

Closure of the company, which had 26 employees, comes less than a year after it received $150,000 from Cayuga County for operating expenses. Ithaca Gun had missed its May and June payments on the loan, for which it had put up its equipment as collateral.

The company reportedly had recently completed a move from King Ferry to Auburn.

Sciarabba, whose group acquired the company out of bankruptcy in the mid-1990s, said Ithaca Gun was several hundred thousand dollars in debt.

Sciarabba said the company also owed several years worth of back excise taxes to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The gun company, which had operated on a 2-acre site on Ithaca's Lake Street continuously since 1880 manufacturing shotguns, went bankrupt in the 1980s and was bought by new owners in 1989 and relocated to King Ferry.

Even though the company moved away from Ithaca more than 15 years ago, the news of its closure came as a disappointment to local hunting aficionados who admired its products.

"I think it's a terrible thing," said Joe Ripchick, who answered the phone Wednesday at Jay Street Rod & Gun Inc., a local gun store that is owned by a friend.

"They are an awful good gun. They have a lot of product out there," Ripchick added. "At one time it was one of the bigger things down here (in Ithaca).

"It gave Ithaca a good name," he added.

Ithaca Gun began production in 1880, and soon became known for making affordable and durable shotguns such as the Deerslayer and Deerslayer II.

"The closing of Ithaca Gun is another sad, but not unexpected, chapter in the life of one of America's oldest gun companies," said Dave Henderson, a lifelong sportsman who writes a twice weekly outdoors column for The Journal and other area newspapers.

"This marks the third financial failure under the 124-year-old Ithaca Gun name in the last 20 years and, frankly, wasn't unexpected given the shaky status of both the company and the firearms business in recent years."

Sciarabba said investors hope someone will buy the company's well-known name and resume production in Central New York.

But, he said, "I don't know if that is going to happen."

Meanwhile, that could shake the confidence of consumers who own or would like to buy an Ithaca-made gun -- and those who sell the firearms.

"More than a few people have guns at the Ithaca Gun service department awaiting repair and have no recourse to recover them," Henderson said.

"Certainly consumers will be reluctant to purchase an Ithaca from a dealer with no guarantee of customer service after the sale, which leaves dealers with guns in inventory that they cannot move."

In addition to more than a century of gun production, the company's legacy in Ithaca also includes decades worth of lead pollution.

Spent lead shot was disposed on land near Ithaca Falls as part of operations. A federally led clean-up program, begun in 2002, removed thousands of tons of lead-contaminated soil from the area at a cost of around $4 million.

Some buildings remain standing on the factory site, where a North Carolina man has for several years been considering redevelopment plans that would include lead clean-up in that area.

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