On Sunday, Dec. 29, workers at New Seasons' Central Kitchen showed up to work to find that they were not allowed to clock in and that the facility was closed indefinitely.
The kitchen, located at 301 Southeast 2nd Avenue, is where baked goods and prepared foods for all of New Seasons' Portland stores are made. In the last two days, WW has received emails from four different Central Kitchen employees saying they received abrupt notice on Sunday that the facility was closed until at least Jan. 7.
The potential closure comes just three weeks after the company announced its sale to South Korean company Good Food Holdings.
One employee who spoke with WW via phone, asking to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, says they showed up to an empty parking lot for their Sunday shift and were made to wait in a break room until managers arrived to explain the situation.
"The HR manager and another woman apologized for the abruptness and vagueness," the Central Kitchen employee says. "They said the information was coming to them almost at the same rate as it was coming to us, and that New Seasons is halting production to assess whether or not it can continue to move forward."
In a flyer distributed by New Seasons management, which was obtained by WW, Central Kitchen staff are assured that they will be paid for scheduled shifts through Jan. 7 but given no information about the reason for the closure.
"If the closure continues past [Jan. 7]," the flyer reads, "we will consider having staff work in stores until the Central Kitchen is back open for operation."
The Central Kitchen employee who spoke with WW finds that claim to be dubious. They estimate that New Seasons Central Kitchen employs more than 150 people and say, "absorbing that many people into eighteen stores would be nearly impossible, not to mention these are people who have chosen to work in production instead of customer service for a reason."
UPDATE, 4:05 pm: A spokesperson for New Seasons says the company "has temporarily suspended operations at [its] Central Kitchen to better assess workflow and make changes within the facility."
The company says it doesn't plan to shut down the kitchen on Jan. 7. It did not offer a date for re-opening.
"Over the past year, we have been evaluating and reviewing operations in our Central Kitchen from all angles, and have partnered with independent consultants to help us develop plans for this work," spokesperson Julie Teune tells WW. "Our company leadership team has made this decision and determined this temporary suspension of operations is the only path to complete this work. Taking care of our staff is our top priority, and shifts in stores will be made available to our Central Kitchen staff with no gaps in pay."