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Community Papers of WNY folds, closes Sun weeklies

The weekly Sun newspapers, a presence in some suburban households for more than 70 years, closed Monday.

Community Papers of Western New York, which owns the Sun papers, several Pennysavers and other publications and businesses, filed for bankruptcy last December. Last week, the bankruptcy court removed Community Papers’ protection from creditors, which led to the closing.

Publisher James C. Austin notified employees about the closing in an email Monday. At the time of the filing, an attorney for the company said it had 200 employees, most of them part time, though the number was believed to be less than half that when the company closed. In the email, Austin wrote that he was informed of the court’s action late Friday afternoon and worked through the weekend to try to save the company.

“This is not what I thought would happen,” Austin wrote in the email. Austin and lawyers for the Community Papers didn’t return phone calls Monday.

The Buffalo News is the largest secured creditor and is owed $1.7 million, according to court filings. Among the largest unsecured creditors are Forward Financing of Boston, owed $206,730; Dual Print & Mail of Grand Island, $150,745; and Publishing Systems LLC of Portland, Ore., $94,424.

“We were looking for a long-term relationship,” said Warren T. Colville, publisher and president of The News. “We wanted them to do well.”

The company’s assets will be sold at auction, Colville said, but Colville did not rule out the possibility that The News or someone else might reopen the papers.

Billed as “New York State’s largest publisher of free weekly community newspapers,” the chain, at one time, claimed to deliver newspapers to more than 258,000 homes and more than 300 other locations each week.

The papers it published went by names like the Amherst Getzville Sun and Hamburg Sun with separate editions in Clarence, the city and town of Tonawanda, Kenmore, Lockport, Lancaster, North Tonawanda, Orchard Park, Cheektowaga, Springville, Cuba, West Seneca and several other communities.

One of the weeklies, the Hamburg Sun, can trace its pedigree to 1875, with the founding of the Erie County Independent. The Hamburg Sun was founded in 1945 by Dick Allen, who used to work for the Independent. In 1947 he bought the Independent for $500 after the death of its publisher, and added its name to the masthead, according to a history published in the paper.

The Community Papers chain, originally known as the Metro Community Newspapers, changed hands in 2014.

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