LYNCHBURG, VA. -- Nine hundred shoemaking employes across Virginia are out of work while the owners of Craddock-Terry Shoe Corp. negotiate for a buyer for the company.

The company is shutting down manufacturing plants and laying off workers in Blackstone, Chase City, Halifax, Gretna and most of the headquarters operation in Lynchburg, officials said.

Still open is the Farmville plant, where 75 of 350 workers are on the job to fill current orders. That plant makes shoes for the Army.

Craddock-Terry's retail branch and the Hill Brothers Mail Order Co. subsidiary will continue to operate.

"Basically, the company is working on a restructuring plan," said Willie Weigand, vice president of administration. "It has temporarily discontinued its operations while it's negotiating."

Weigand said he did not know how long the layoff would last if the sale goes through. "It's really uncertain at this point," he said.

"There is a prospective buyer out there that they are talking to now. This is perceived as a temporary layoff. It's my understanding that the prospective buyer would make every effort to bring back as many employes as possible."

Officials declined to identify the potential buyer.

The layoffs are the latest in a series for workers at Craddock-Terry, which, like other domestic shoe manufacturers, has faced stiff competition from imports.

Formerly a publicly traded company, Craddock-Terry was bought last year and taken private by HH Holdings. Since then, the company has closed plants in Lynchburg and Lawrenceville, and moved the operations of the Victoria plant to the company's empty plant building in Blackstone.

Craddock-Terry has tried to expand its position in the marketplace by emphasizing retail operations and creating its own name brand