Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc., parent company of the three Weinstocks stores in Salt Lake City, Murray and Ogden, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Los Angeles federal court Monday, but a local Weinstocks executive said customers don't need to worry.

"We will absolutely stay open during this and it should not affect customers in any make, shape or form," said Larry Harman, manager of the Weinstocks at Fashion Place Mall."And we will be a stronger company than in the past," he added.

Other store managers referred inquiries to the Weinstocks corporate office in Sacramento, Calif. Executives there, in turn, referred calls to Carter Hawley Hale's corporate offices where company spokesman Bill Dombrowski confirmed there would be no layoffs or store closings as a result of the Chapter 11 filing.

"This decisive action will enable the company to re-establish trade credit and give the organization the opportunity to achieve a proper infusion of capital in order to be in a position to build on its underlying strengths," said Philip M. Hawley, chairman and chief executive officer of the retail giant whose chains of stores also include the Broadway and Emporium.

Carter Hawley Hale is the largest department store company in the western United States with 88 stores in six Western states.

The company took on a large debt load three years ago in a takeover battle that, combined with poor sales over the past Christmas season, resulted in a $26 million loss for the past fiscal year. At that time, CHH spun off its upscale Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores.

News reports say the company recently moved to cut its debt from $1.6 billion to some $700 million. In December, it sold its Thalheimers chain in Richmond, Va., for $317 million and last month agreed to sell its credit card operation to General Electric Capital Corp. for $50 million, but the latter deal has apparently been canceled.