Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion All logos have been taken off the shuttered Carl's Jr. building Monday, April 25, 2016, in Kenai, Alaska.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion All logos have been taken off the shuttered Carl's Jr. building Monday, April 25, 2016, in Kenai, Alaska.

Carl’s Jr., Blockbuster employees transition after closures

It was business as usual at the Carl’s Jr. in Kenai for the last few weeks before it closed — except no meat was coming in on the delivery trucks.

Employees were still taken by surprise when they were informed the store would be closing. The company had not communicated with employees before abruptly informing them that the store would close, and no reason has been given since for the decision.

Operations continued for a few more shifts as supplies dwindled. Workers got creative as they ran out of ingredients, said Michelle Miller, a former employee. Customers, especially regulars, started noticing and expressed frustration for the employees.

“Customers were really kind of upset, because this was kind of a gathering place for people,” Miller said. “A lot of people came in and had breakfast there. A lot of customers expressed frustration with the company. They asked us like, ‘What are you gonna do? Do you have plans?’”

Managers at the store told the employees that they would get good recommendations if they stayed throughout the last few shifts. Some stayed and some chose to leave and look for other jobs, said Sammy Doughty, a former manager. Another former manager, who transferred to a different branch in Fairbanks, offered to take some employees with him, she said.

She said she wished the company had been up front with the employees before shutting the store down.

“A lot of us would have stayed till the day we closed,” Doughty said. “But at least give us fair warning. Some of them had kids. To be suddenly out of work, that’s not right. That’s not how you treat employees.”

A representative from Carl’s Jr.’s corporate office did not return multiple requests for comment on the store closure.

Doughty has since found work at the Chevron station in Soldotna, which she said she enjoys. Job-hunting is hard on the Kenai Peninsula, where there are fewer businesses that may be hiring than in a larger city like Anchorage, and those who are hiring may make fewer accommodations for employees needing to address personal health and different schedules, she said.

Miller had another job at Walmart while she worked at Carl’s Jr., and had that position to fall back on when the business closed. She said she stays in touch with several other employees and sees them at work occasionally, catching up on how they are managing.

Lisa Hinchman, a Kenai Central High School student, said she didn’t want to go through the hassle of applying for new jobs when Carl’s Jr. closed. She said she would rather focus on graduation, just a few months away, and then apply for jobs when she graduates.

She said she enjoyed the fast-paced environment of working at Carl’s Jr. and the variety of tasks she carried out during each shift. One downside was balancing a late shift with schoolwork, she said.

The employees at Carl’s Jr. were close and stay in touch, she said. For her part, she’s taking a laid-back approach to it and adapting to the reality of change, she said.

“I might as well start taking adulthood’s punches,” Hinchman said.

Rachel O’Brien, the regional manager at the Peninsula Job Center in Kenai, said the center worked with several employees who were laid off after Carl’s Jr. closed. It’s hard on families to have to rely on unemployment after the loss of a job, and when there is little warning, they may not have time to apply for the benefits and thus may experience a lapse in income while waiting for the benefits to come through, she said.

“There is nothing more devastating to a home than yesterday making $50,000 and today (to say) ‘I am dependent on unemployment insurance,’” O’Brien said.

When notified in advance, Job Center staff will organize what are called rapid response worker meetings to help identify training that might make someone out of work more marketable, or show them how to apply for unemployment, ideally before they are laid off, O’Brien said. Addressing layoffs in advances helps “keep employees grounded,” she said.

In the past with large layoffs the Job Center has even organized job fairs, which was successful when the Lowe’s closed down about three years ago, she said.

Across the parking lot from where the old Carl’s Jr. store stands empty, another empty store has a smoother transition story to tell. Just a few weeks before Carl’s Jr. shut its doors, managers at Blockbuster announced the Kenai location would be closing and the store would host a closeout sale for a month.

Customers flooded the store and bought out DVDs before many of the employees transferred to the company’s Soldotna location, working shifts in both places before going to Soldotna full-time, said Kevin Daymude, the general manager for all the Blockbuster stores in Alaska.

“That was a hard store for me to close,” Daymude said. “The store was just a nice store. Nice and clean, great location.”

However, it was not doing as well as the Soldotna store, so the company decided to close it. Most of the stock was sold before the store closed its doors, Daymude said.

The transition has gone well, he said. Employees are learning the layout of the Soldotna store and were able to get acquainted with the store before moving over there by working one shift at Soldotna and then one at Kenai, he said.

Justin Trickel, one of the employees who transitioned to the Soldotna store, said he felt it went well and he’s getting through the learning curve of working there.

“The setup is different, and where movies are categorized is a little different between what Kenai was and what Soldotna is,” Trickel said. “Getting used to all that is a little rough.”

However, the customers have not said anything about the Kenai store closing, Trickel said. He said he is happy to be working there.

Daymude said the number of stores closing in Kenai may be an indicator of the city’s economy.

“There are so many stores closing in Kenai,” Daymude said. “It’s kind of concerning. We love it down there.”

 

Kelly Sullivan contributed reporting. Reach her at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com. Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion The inside of Blockbuster Video's former Kenai location, and all signage except the company's name on exterior awnings has been stripped Monday, April 25, 2016, in Kenai, Alaska.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion The inside of Blockbuster Video’s former Kenai location, and all signage except the company’s name on exterior awnings has been stripped Monday, April 25, 2016, in Kenai, Alaska.

More in News

Courtesy photo / Juneau Raptor Center
This golden eagle was rescued by the Juneau Raptor Center over the summer after being found weak and thin.
Rescue center, birdwatchers look back on 2021

Juneau Christmas bird count was way down this year.

This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (NICT via AP)
Tsunami advisory issued after eruption

An undersea volcano erupted Friday near the South Pacific island of Tonga, triggering concerns of damaging waves across Pacific coastlines

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Multiple public works projects underway in Soldotna

Soldotna City Council received an update on eight different projects

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Hospitalizations rise as state reports increase in COVID cases

There were a total of 112 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Friday

Terri Carter’s class celebrates the National Blue Ribbon award after their assembly at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Friday, Jan 14, 2022. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
A ‘pathway to a brighter and fulfilling future’

Soldotna Montessori Charter School celebrates national achievement

Homer City Council member Rachel Lord discusses her concerns with funding the Alaska Small Business Development Center Homer Business Advisory position during the Jan. 10 council meeting. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Council says ‘yes to small businesses’

Homer City Council votes 4-2 in favor of partially funding the Homer Business Advisory position.

AP Photo / Becky Bohrer
Sightseeing buses and tourists are seen at a pullout popular for taking in views of North America’s tallest peak, Denali, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, on Aug. 26, 2016.
Bridge proposed along section of slumping Denali park road

Landslides in the area go back decades but usually required maintenance every two to three years

A sign directs voters at Soldotna City Hall on March 5, 2019. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Locals to join national voting rights march Saturday

The march in Soldotna is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna approves $32,000 federal grant for airport

The funds were made available through the American Rescue Plan Act for improvement projects at the Soldotna Municipal Airport

Most Read