NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Customers, hungry for a Fuddrucker's hamburger, turned away from locked doors perplexed. They're not nearly as confused as the restaurant's former employees. A manager sent them home on June 24th.
"He came up to me, told me to quit working, that the business was shutting down and that's about the extent of it," recalled Jarrett Fawvor.
That day Naaron Hood's cell phone was on the blink. He got to work after everyone had left.
"No sign on the door. No anything," said Hood. "No notification from any body besides my manager, not the owner."
The order to close came from former Nacogdoches city councilman Don Partin. The restaurant opened on Labor Day, 2007. At the time, Partin said it was to symbolize his devotion to the local labor market.
"Yes, I did that to compliment some of the infrastructure we have here in the community, such as a great educated work force," said Partin in an opening day interview.
The manager delivering the unexpected firings was with Partin on that first day. On the last day, he and his wife, a recently hired bar manager, got their pink slips too.
"We're telling him, you've put us in a bad situation," said Stefanie Barragan. "He won't even answer those calls. It really feels like a huge betrayal to all of us."
The laid off employees say Partin told them he's declared bankruptcy, but so far no record of it is on file. The staff has filed wage claim forms with the Labor Board.
"I'm a family man. I got a wife and 4 kids and I can't pay my rent. And the sad thing is, I've already earned that money," said Fawvor.
A Texas Workforce Solutions Center representative says if it had been notified prior to the closure, it could have created a smoother transition for employees. There was no recall of any other business that has abruptly closed its doors.
Fuddrucker's corporate office was unaware of the closure. A marketing representative said Luby's bought Fuddrucker's out of bankruptcy a year ago, but the Nacogdoches franchise is handled independently. The spokesperson said someone is researching the issue.
The Nacogdoches Fuddrucker's management said sales were good. A temporarily-suspended liquor license set back bar sales, but staff says corrections had been made.
Following sporadic participation in city council meetings, the restaurant owner, Don Partin, chose not to seek re-election as a city councilman.
Several calls and a message were left on partin's cell phone, as well as his wife's. At the time of this report, no calls had been returned. We'll continue to seek Partin's input on this story.