The Mouse that Died

Macheezmo Mouse, once one of Portland's best-known fast-food chains, has shut down its last four restaurants, leaving behind a pile of debts, a vat of Boss Sauce, and a mob of unpaid employees.

Who moved their cheese?

The phone at corporate headquarters is disconnected, and Michael Swartz, Macheezmo's big enchilada, could not be reached.

Macheezmo had been melting down for years; the company never recovered from the death of founder Tiger Warren, killed in the fatal crash of a floatplane he was piloting over the Columbia River in 1999. Earlier this month, the owner of a Salem food court filed a complaint in Marion County court for back rent.

One former employee, who asked that his name not be used, told WW he smelled a rat when, on May 12, his manager told him not to open the store on Southwest Macadam Avenue and instead to leave his key outside in the planter, go home and await his final paycheck.

"I was thinking I was going to get screwed," he says.

The check never came. He and three other former Macheezmo mouseketeers have filed claims with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries totaling more than $2,000.

BOLI maintains a fund for employees left in the lurch when businesses collapse. The worker says he doesn't think many of his former co-workers know about the BOLI fund; he estimates that the company's four restaurants employed 40 to 60 workers. "I wish everybody would go file claims," he says, "but I don't think everybody is smart enough to do that."

WWeek 2015

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