American E-Liquid Pioneer Files for Bankruptcy

Johnson Creek Vapor Company is closing on Oct. 10, and filing for bankruptcy. The Hartland, WI-based company is the largest independent vape business to close since ProVape shut its doors in February.

In an email sent to customers Monday, chief operating officer Heidi Braun wrote, “Our hope is to come out of bankruptcy and continue to make and sell products, but this is yet to be determined and we have no timetable to determine this.”

That indicates that Johnson Creek is filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which could allow the company to reorganize if so ordered by the presiding judge.

One of the first e-liquid manufacturers in the United States, Johnson Creek began online sales in 2008. The company began operations in founder Christian Berkey’s home.

In 2010, the company started supplying cigalike maker Blu with PG-free e-liquid, which proved beneficial to both companies. The all-VG liquid was a hit, and Johnson Creek began selling a bottled line through its website too.

Blu challenged NJOY for top spot among convenience-store e-cig products, and eventually was sold to cigarette maker Lorillard Tobacco Company for $135 million in 2012. Within a couple years, Blu and Johnson Creek ended their partnership. In 2014, Republic Tobacco bought a reported 50 percent share of Johnson Creek.

Johnson Creek has fought for vaping. When the FDA announced its deeming regulations last year, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson quoted Johnson Creek founder Christian Berkey in his letters to the agency. Berkey was also involved in the effort by the Village of Hartland to pressure the FDA through the strategy of “coordination” to modify its rule.

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Jim McDonald