Quiznos closing shocks workers

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BENNINGTON -- Five months after it reopened to much fanfare, the Quiznos in Bennington Square is once again closed.

Tuesday's closing came as a shock to the sandwich shop's employees, who learned Friday they would be losing their jobs, said Crystal Careau, 20, a former manager.

She said she and other employees weren't supposed to know about the closing until the day it happened, and added that the corporate leadership, based in Denver, has a history of not providing accurate information.

Careau said she and a number of other people were hired at the same time, and it took five weeks for some to get their first paychecks. She said she is still owed for 300 hours of work, while other employs say they are owed between 40 and 75 hours. Careau said Quiznos has promised her and those she works with back and severance pay within the next 72 hours, but she is concerned about receiving it.

Careau said she and some of her former co-workers recently moved into an apartment on Elm Street and are wondering how they will be able to afford rent.

Kelsey Harrington, Careau's cousin, said she also moved into a new apartment and thinks she may have to move in with Careau.

She said their last day was an emotional one, as were the days after they learned they would be jobless. "We sat there, we cried, we made sandwiches," Careau said.

"It was the hardest day I've worked," said Renee Harrington, Careau's mother, who also worked as a manager.

Careau said Cindy Bunge, who managed the Quiznos for its first few weeks, worked well with the crew, but problems arose when Marty Smith, 51, of Glens Falls, N.Y., was hired as a manger.

Smith pleaded not guilty in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division on Nov. 23 to disorderly conduct. He was scheduled to appear again in court on Jan. 3, but according to court documents, did not appear. An arrest warrant for $1,000 was issued by Judge David Howard.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Christopher Lauzon, on Nov. 8 at 11:30 a.m., he responded to the Quiznos for a reported assault. Lauzon said Dominique Manyweather, a Quiznos employee, reported being shoved into a pillar outside of the shop by Smith.

Lauzon said that when he arrived, he saw Careau on the ground in some kind of medical distress.

Smith told police he'd arrived at the store to handle complaints by employees against Manyweather, and that while Kelsey Harrington was filling out a complaint, Manyweather entered, shouting and demanding to know who was complaining. Smith said he went outside and pushed Manyweather away when he came at him with his arms flailing.

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Careau told the Banner the incident started the night before when she'd cut herself on a meat slicer and had Manyweather bring her to the hospital without closing the store properly. She said Manyweather attempted to reach Smith via phone numerous times, but was unable to. In the morning, he was upset with them.

Kelsey Harrington told police Smith pushed Manyweather against a pillar, and that he shoved Careau when she tried to intervene.

Police said a number of people described Smith and Manyweather yelling, and there being some pushing.

Careau said the company then sent Theresa Hughes, a traveling general manager, to sort out the store's problems while a new manager was sought. She said Hughes was more open with store employees, but employees from the corporate office said they could be terminated if they spoke about the incident involving Smith and Manyweather.

Hughes declined to comment for this article.

Careau said the main office claimed there would soon be a new manager, but instead their pay was reduced. She said they were recently told the store was turning a profit, and employees shouldn't worry about news of other corporate-owned franchises closing.

She said she and others also fear not being able to apply for unemployment because of how Quiznos classified their jobs.

"When I started working there, I didn't know it would be so secretive," said Kelsey Harrington, 18.

The Denver Post reported Tuesday that Quiznos will lay off 69 workers from its corporate office, based in Denver, by mid-March. The company filed the planned lay offs with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. According to the filing, there are between 100 and 200 people employed at the corporate office.

Careau said many of the people her store was in contact with no longer work there.

Calls to a Quiznos spokeswoman were not returned Tuesday.

The first time the Bennington Quiznos closed was in April 2009. It had been a privately run franchise. Bunge told the Banner in September that it was because the operation was poorly organized.

Contact Keith Whitcomb at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com.


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