Companies file for bankruptcy and go out of business every day, yet not all of them remain dead. Some return with barely a pulse and others roar back to life. Join CSG as we delve into five companies that had a ghoulish return from the grave.


Francesca’s is an apparel retail chain that saw their best year back in 2016. Since that time, they struggled to maintain customers and their large footprint. Over expansion often becomes a problem for this type of retailer and in 2020 the company was in the process of closing underperforming stores. Once the pandemic hit a couple of months later, things went downhill quickly as their slow and steady plans of recovery were ripped asunder. The company closed half of their locations and filed for bankruptcy by the end of the year. The retailer was sold to TerraMar Capital, along with Tiger Capital Group in February of 2021, and were granted a rare second chance. They took advantage of this opportunity by relying on a smaller and more controllable physical footprint. The stores that remained open saw significant alteration to their inventory as the company began selling more casual clothing and expanding the age range of their target consumer. In May of this year, the company started its expansion with nine “Franki” small format youth clothing stores which could signal a shift in its growth.


Lord & Taylor
Our next grave riser is the progenitor of the modern U.S. department store, Lord & Taylor. The company was founded in 1824 and was the oldest department store in the U.S. when it closed the last of its stores in 2020. The company has had a long and slow demise as it was sold to Hudson’s Bay Company in 2012 and then to Le Tote, a clothing subscription service, in 2019, although the company didn’t stay gone for long. Lord & Taylor currently survives as an online retailer owned by The Saadia Group. The brand relies heavily on their name to sell their classic merchandise, yet they are also committed to expanding their customer base to shoppers who never got the chance to enter a brick & mortar location. There is even the possibility that the company could return to the physical world in the future, although for now, they join a growing number of online only retail converts.


Guitar Center
They were the largest musical instrument retailer in the U.S. and their demise was swift, though their return to life was almost instantaneous. Unlike other retailers on this list, Guitar Center was doing quite well before 2020. They had experienced sales growth and the future looked bright, then the pandemic silenced them overnight. They filed for bankruptcy in November of 2020 and exited bankruptcy a month later thanks to investors who had been impressed by their pre-pandemic sales growth. It was even more shocking when the company filed paperwork for an IPO less than a year later in September of 2021. This instrumental shop has done more than shamble back to life, they are even stronger than before.


CEC Entertainment
Chuck E. Cheese (CEC) is a favorite destination for children’s birthday parties, yet when COVID rolled around it looked like there would be no more celebrations. A large venue filled with children and communal play and eating spaces is exactly the kind of place that was taboo at the height of the pandemic. CEC didn’t really have the options of other restaurants and retailers and they quickly spiraled towards bankruptcy. During this downfall an odd saga occurred that could have tipped us off to CEC’s return from the dead. In 2020 a delivery only restaurant brand popped up called Pasqually’s Pizza and it raised some eyebrows. The restaurant bared no mention of CEC, though Pasqually is an animatronic member of Chuck E. Cheese’s titular band. Some intrepid reporters followed these Pasqually delivery drivers to their source and discovered they were in fact operating out of CEC locations. While this stunt did not save the company from bankruptcy, it did show their willingness to innovate and adapt. The company exited bankruptcy in December of 2020 and while they lost some locations along the way, they are determined to reopen as many as possible and return as a premier spot for childhood celebrations.


Ruby Tuesday
At their height, causal dining chain Ruby Tuesday had over 800 locations. They had stiff competition from rivals like Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s, yet they held their own. It was the emergence of fast casual brands like Shake Shack that really started to hurt them. While their competitors worked quickly to stay relevant, Ruby Tuesday was slow to react to the changing tides. When they did make changes, it failed to draw in new customers and seemed to alienate existing ones. By the time 2020 came, the chain had lost almost half of their locations. The pandemic was hard on restaurants that performed exceptionally, and it showed no pity on those who were already struggling. They filed for bankruptcy in October of 2020 and emerged as a smaller company in February of 2021. With a smaller footprint, the company has set its sight on expanding their digital and delivery only brands. Their most current digital brand, Libby’s BBQ, is being offered at all their physical locations in order to drive up revenue and brand awareness. The menu is a departure from their traditional fare and shows a wiliness to try new things while also demonstrating that the company is still committed to their physical restaurants. The chain may never reach their footprint of old, yet they are more willing to keep up with the times.


Not every company is able to survive a bankruptcy filing, yet those that do often find themselves in a position to forge a new identity for their brands. There are lessons to be found in both their fall and subsequent rise back to prominence. For new and old brands alike, the future is not guaranteed, and innovation and adaptation are constantly required to ensure that a company is ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges.