January has been the best of months and the worst of months for the J. Peterman Co. In January 1998, the catalog clothing company was rolling in cash — liter-ally, with $11 million in new capital — and was rolling out retail stores across the country. Yet in January 1999, the overextended company declared bankruptcy, and in March 1999 J. Peterman auctioned off its assets. Founder John Peterman was forced to buy back his own name.

This January, Peterman relaunched the business.

Peterman, 60, won’t quote the private company’s sales, but says the relaunch is going “very well.” The new J. Peterman Co. has a Web site (www.jpeterman.com) that accounts for about 20 percent of its business, but a core group of select catalog recipients is the main focus of the renewed company.

The catalog’s hand-drawn illustrations and exclusive mailing list (Peterman won’t even say how many catalogs he mails) hark back to the old J. Peterman mystique. “My plans for the company this time are to stay true to the brand and grow the company through ways other than investors and banks,” Peterman says. “I’ll control the brand and the image, that’s what I’m concerned about.”