Laid off employees fight to get items locked inside shuttered Henrico plant

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Two employees of Premiere XD, who abruptly closed three warehouses in Henrico County on Tuesday, are struggling to get personal items back locked inside the shuttered factory.

Tony Merritt and Ray Allen said they found out their job was closed from a sign posted on the front door of the Oakleys Lane factory.

The two were among 190 Premiere XD employees without jobs in Henrico County, according to officials.

Merritt, a maintenance manager employed by the company for 13 years, said he didn't see it coming.

"After everybody left Tuesday evening somebody came back and put signs on the doors," he explained.

Ray Allen and Tony Merritt

The Hauppauge, New York-based company, previously known as Premiere Store Fixtures, provided displays for grocery stores, food service, including Starbucks and Panera, as well as fixtures for hotels and other retail and technology shops.

In a letter to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), Premiere XD CFO Jennifer Filippone said employees were not notified of the sudden closure until Wednesday, because the company was "actively seeking capital and financing through various means" up until Tuesday.

Allen, who worked for the company for 12 years, said he felt blindsided by the move.

"Then we get stabbed in the back pretty much. It feels that way for a lot of us around here," Allen stated. "There's a little sticker on the door, as impersonal as can be, that you don’t have a job anymore -- you don’t have an income anymore. It’s hard."

Merritt said he saw warning signs the company was in financial trouble several months ago.

"The last 2 or 3 months, vendors and contractors were emailing, texting, and calling seven days a week wanting payments. That was a sign," he recalled.

But, now both employees struggle to get back personal items locked inside the factory -- Allen's bike and Merritt's building supplies.

The men said a security guard hired by the bank told them they needed to make "other arrangements."

A corporate phone number given to employees provided a recorded message that the factory was closed Friday.

Allen said he hoped his former coworkers won't have to go through another abrupt closure again.

"They don’t ever have to run across somebody that would disrespect them as a human being, as an employee. Even if they are in hard times instead of dropping a bomb on them when they’re in bed asleep," he stated.

Ray Allen

Notice to employees 

Company officials notified the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) in a letter dated Sept. 11 about the closures of the plants at 3910 Technology Court, 2700 Distribution Drive and 4650 Oakleys Lane. That breaks down to 28 workers at Technology Court, 24 workers at Distribution Drive and 138 the workers at Oakleys Lane.

The company also provided the letter employees received about the closing and layoffs.

"First, on behalf of Premier Fixtures, LLC ("Premier" or the "Company"), I would like to thank you for your hard work and dedication. This confirms that the Company has determined that it will be ceasing its business and, thus, closing its facility/offices located at 2700 Distribution Dr., Henrico, VA 23231, as well as its facilities in other states. The entire facility/office will be closed and all employees will be impacted/laid off. Regrettably, your employment will be terminated as part of this closing. The Company expects that this closure and the layoffs will be a "plant closing" within the meaning of the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (the "WARN Act"). This memorandum therefore provides you with information to which you are entitled under the WARN Act."

Officials said the permanent layoffs will affect the company's entire workforce.

The company was acquired by Tailwind Capital in August of 2015, according to a news release.

VEC officials acknowledged receipt of the closures in a letter to the company dated Sept. 12.

"We appreciate your concern for the affected employees and pledge our assistance in helping them to get the necessary workforce services they will need as they transition into new employment opportunities," Brett E. Tavel, Rapid Response State Coordinator for the VEC, wrote in a letter. "(VEC) will work with you and your staff in coordinating and planning the Rapid Response Services that are available to the affected employees."

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