STL-based photo company's abrupt closure leaves customers, employees scrambling

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by KMOV.com staff

KMOV.com

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 5 at 6:30 PM

(KMOV.com) – Customers and employees of St. Louis-based portrait company CPI were left scrambling after the company closed all of its U.S. locations.

The company ran photo portrait studios in locations like Walmart, Sears and Toys-R-Us, and had more than 2,000 studios nationwide.

With the closure, customers are scrambling to find out if they can get the pictures they paid for and employees are wondering if they’ll get their paychecks.

CPI has been losing millions of dollars the last few years and had reportedly tried to find a buyer but couldn’t work out a deal. As a result, the company closed all its portrait studios except those in Canada.

As a result, studio employees across the St. Louis metro area were left to answer customer questions while being told they were out of a job.

Phones were ringing off the hook at the Picture Me portrait studio in St. Charles with calls from customers worried they’d lose their money and photos, but employees were making sure that didnt happen.

“These people trusted us with their children’s pictures, with memories that are going to last a lifetime,” said former manager Jennifer McDowell. “Children with handicaps, family members that are gone. I’m not- I’m not just going to turn my back on them.”

Even though the employees had been told they were laid off, they came in on their own time to help customers.

“They had burned a CD for me on their own time,” said customer Chris Parker. “It’s amazing, the staff here has been great.”

Up until the end, the compnay was promising employees that everyting was okay. An email came in at 7:28 p.m. Wednesday saying the notice that the portrait studio was to be closed was a mistake and that everything was business as usual.

Then an email came in just two hours later saying the company was closing all of its U.S. studios and the employees were in fact out of a job.

The company’s headquarters on Washington Avenue were locked up Thursday.

An employee told News 4 workers will get paid and customers will get their photos, but the way all the closure was handled has engendered little faith the company will keep its promises.

“I think it’s shameful,” said McDowell. “They, they told us that it was going to be okay.”

 

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