Monday, October 25, 2021

Lack of manpower leads to tough decisions | Business

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The leaning real estate sign out front on the Friday before the long holiday weekend told part of the story. Two industrial dumpsters near the back of the restaurant, empty now except for some leftover rain water, add to the tale. But despite plenty of traffic on M-72 between Acme and Kalkaska, there was no Labor Day weekend in 2021 at Mr. C’s Pub and Grill.

Right over ‘Happy Hour Daily,’ a note taped to the glass reads: “Due to the labor shortages, Mr. C’s had decided to ceased (sic) operations. We are so grateful for all the relationships we have made with so many of you. We will miss all of you! Take care.” A drawing of a heart took the place of the final period.

The sign on the front door says it all.

The 5.29-ace commercial site was put on the market two weeks ago, said Realtor Don Fedrigon, Jr., the listing agent and the broker/owner of Re/Max of Elk Rapids. List price is $1.195 million.

The telephone at Grand Traverse Pet Supply at 1185 W. South Airport Road answers with a voice message along the same theme as the sign at Mr. C’s.

“Hello, this is Grand Traverse Pet Supply,” the voice message from owner Chris Gopigian says. “We are temporarily closed due to lack of employees. We hope to reopen soon. Please check back with us. We thank you for being a customer.”

Grand Traverse Pet Supply officially went dark May 5, 2021. It wasn’t what Gopigian could have envisioned when he sat on milk crates in 1992, ordering fixtures and equipment for the Jan. 30, 1993 opening of Pet Supply Plus, which went independent nearly 20 years later.

Labor shortages across every industry in the region have left business owners scrambling to stay open during the early days of the pandemic in March 2020.

“It didn’t close,” said Gopigian from his home in Bloomfield. “I just had no employees.”

Some businesses responded to the lack of employees by reducing the number of days open during the week. Other companies drastically reduced daily hours of operation. Some did both.

Other business owners made the difficult to decision to lock the door — perhaps for good, but certainly for an indefinite period of time.

“It’s very difficult,” said Wendy Williams, who closed four of the nine Subway franchises she operates with “a very silent partner” in the area. “I put my heart, soul and money — everything — into this.

“This is not how I wanted to go out. This is not what I wanted for this.”

“It’s a sad story,” said Gopigian, who said he feels the worse for his loyal customers.

Looking for help

Gopigian said he received a text message the following morning asking if he received the email and the owner texted a reply to discuss the matter in person. A subsequent text said it was a yes or no question, to which he again offered to discuss the matter.

Grand Traverse Pet Supply had three employees before this year and went into the spring with two, Gopigian reported. Gopigian said he received an email one night looking for a “significant raise” for the store manager. He said it was more an ultimatum at nearly double the current rate.

Williams said the nine Subway franchises she operated had 74 employees before restaurants were limited to take-out only in March of 2020. She currently employs 33.

“I never heard from them again,” the pet supply store owner said of the two workers.

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