It's been three days since the Green Frog Market at Oswell and Columbus abruptly closed Sunday, and on Wednesday night former employees protested outside the Alta Vista store, saying they didn't receive their full compensation.
The former employees said it's especially hard heading into the holidays.
"You may get one unemployment check before Christmas, and at the end of the month, you now find out you won't have medical insurance, either," said Donna Sprague, a former employee who was two years away from retirement when she was laid off on Sunday, after 13 years of service.
Thirty-five employees were affected by the closure. While half of them were transferred to the Alta Vista store, the other half were laid off.
"And then we get our last check, and then no vacation time is in it that is coming to us," Sprague said. "And it's like now we have to fight for what we earned. And I hate that, because I really, truly loved working for this store."
"I know it wasn't an oversight. It was purposely done," said Patti Holmes, a former store manager who spent 15 years with the company.
"We did everything exactly according to the union contract that we have, what it allows us to do," said Green Frog president Scott Hair on Monday. "There's no good way to tell people they're losing their jobs, unfortunately."
Hair said the closure is the effect of a tough economy and competition with new big box stores in the area.
"We just could not continue to take the losses there that we were taking to move forward," he said. "You look at the moves you have to make in business to keep it going, and they're not always palatable on a human sense. And our employees that we're losing, we're extremely sad about that. They've been loyal, faithful employees, and I understand their frustrations."
Hair said customer volume at the Oswell store dropped 50 percent this year. The employees said they understand, but it still seems unfair.
"I'm not really mad at the owner," Sprague said. "And I feel for everybody who worked for them, because they thought they would have a job for a long time, such as me."
"It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking," Holmes said. "But I feel bad for them that things were tough and they had to close. But at the same time, I've got a family to feed and health care to cover. I've got to do what I've got to do."
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