Henefer loses its largest employer | ParkRecord.com

Henefer loses its largest employer

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A photo lab in Henefer that processed portraits exclusively for Kiddie Kandids studios closed Monday leaving about 40 people in the North Summit area out of work.

Henefer resident Camie Ford said she doesn’t even expect to receive a paycheck for her last two weeks.

"People rely on that income to pay their bills," said Ford, who was a night supervisor at the lab. "I think it was handled improperly but I don’t really know who to hold responsible. It obviously wasn’t the right way to go about things."

According to a statement posted this week on the company’s Web site, Sandy-based Kiddie Kandids ceased operations on Monday as a result "of an abrupt and unforeseen loss of funding from its banks."

The company intends to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

"There were about 180 stores across the country, along with our lab in Henefer and the corporate office in Sandy," said Henefer resident Shelly Olsen, who was director of the lab in the North Summit area. "We did work for all 180 stores. We were the only lab for all of Kiddie Kandids."

Some employees who received their pink slips Monday morning had worked together in Henefer for more than a dozen years, explained Jeremy Ranch resident Tyler Rasch, the photo lab’s former senior director.

"That meeting was very emotional. As people were arriving for work we put our arms around them and let them know right away," Rasch said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I know a lot of the company employees were notified by text and e-mails and I didn’t want that to happen to any of my employees."

The lab functioned very efficiently, he said.

"It was one of the spots of the company where everything was being done very, very well by people with an incredible work ethic who all learned how to work bailing hay on a farm," Rasch said.

News of the layoffs shocked Henefer resident Deb Jones, who had worked at the photo lab since the 1990s.

"They said we would not get paid," Jones said in a telephone interview.

She no longer has health insurance from the company, Jones said, adding that she also doesn’t have access to COBRA benefits because Kiddie Kandids had a self-insured health plan.

"I needed the insurance," she said. "But there are others who are in a worse position than me."

Most troubling for many of the laid-off employees was losing their health plans.

"A lot of them were working specifically for the insurance benefits," Ford said. "None of us were getting giant paychecks from the photo lab."

The layoffs came suddenly this week.

"[Rasch] received word Sunday evening and then he contacted me Sunday night at about 10 o’clock. We wanted everyone to have the opportunity to come Monday and gather up any of their personal effects," Olsen said. "When you work together for that amount of years, we felt like we were a family."

Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard said the lab closure has left some families in the rural hamlet devastated.

"That was the largest employer in Henefer," Ovard said. "I know about all of the people who worked their and each of them were devastated at the turn of events. It’s going to be a major loss to this village."

Kiddie Kandids officials blamed the closure on the economic downturn of the past 18 months.

"We have exhausted all possible avenues for funding and have come to the end of the road. This is truly unfortunate in light of the great team of employees and the great customers that made Kiddie Kandids a leading national children’s photography studio," Kiddie Kandids Chief Executive Officer Dale Merrill said in a prepared statement. "It is our hope that if the assets are purchased out of bankruptcy that the buyer will consider hiring back many of our employees."

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