MANCHESTER, NH — As of March 1 Portland Pie Co. on Elm Street was history. All 32 employees are out of a job, terminated due to “business closing,” according to a letter each employee received.
Sunday morning the Inklink reached out to Portland Pie Co. COO Dan Thomson, who provided the following statement:
“Due to overwhelming economic factors, Portland Pie Company regrets having to close our Manchester location. We would like to thank Manchester and the surrounding communities for the support over the years.
We know the Elm Street corner has been a big part of Manchester’s history and we are proud to have been a part of it for the past 10 years.
We value the contributions of all our past and current employees, and certainly our Manchester employees are no exception. We will work with all employees to ensure a smooth transition.
We will continue to operate and hope customers visit us at our other locations throughout Maine.”
General Manager Kelly McKinney got the call just before midnight Saturday from her district manager. McKinney has been with the company for two years, working her way up from server to general manager.
“I worked my shift on Saturday and then went home and did my thing. And then I got the call,” said McKinney. The district manager was on the phone and told her he planned to come in Sunday morning to let employees know they were out of a job. McKinney knew it couldn’t wait.
“I said, no, I’ll tell my employees,” and she headed right back to Elm Street, and gathered the night shift employees around who were busy closing the restaurant to share the news, including manager Makenzie White, who just got hired two weeks ago.
“Not even two weeks. And they just hired a bunch of servers, too. In fact, three new servers and a host since Feb. 17,” White said.
“I was in pure shock,” White said of the news. She was scheduled to work the early shift Sunday. They came in instead to find a manager from another store already there “ripping apart the kitchen and packing things away.” After that, the Sunday crew decided to go out for brunch at the Rover, a rare and bittersweet opportunity to spend time together off the clock on a Sunday morning.
They all have received unemployment packets, instructions on how to apply for unemployment and handwritten checks to settle up for work already done since the last pay period.
“These are servers getting hourly pay, so we’re talking $30 to $50. That’s it, you’re unemployed,” White said.
Thanks to White sharing the news on her social media page, there is already a potential lifeline from other local restaurants who want to help.
“I heard right away from Birch on Elm and Bonfire who reached out to say they’re both hiring and will give us priority,” White said.
Economically, it’s tough to become suddenly unemployed for anyone, but especially for those with young families. McKinney is a single mom and said her kitchen managers are both single dads, one of them just welcomed twins into the world.
It’s all hard to wrap their heads around, especially because it’s their understanding that Portland Pie Co. restaurants in Maine are still open.
“We have heard they are actually opening new ones,” said White. “They did this exact same thing in Nashua two years ago.”
In fall of 2017 Nashua Portland Pie Co. also abruptly shut its doors. The building had been constructed along the river and opened with a splash near the busy intersection of Railroad Square and Main Street.
When asked whether there were any signs of trouble at the Manchester location, McKinney reflected on something that happened in October.
“I got promoted after I had my baby in July, and in October three managers quit. I had to take over the store with no option, but last month we were turning things around. Our sales were good so, yeah, this is a total surprise. I had no idea. I thought we just signed a new lease, but honestly, I don’t know what’s truth and what’s not anymore.
If any local restaurants have open jobs for front or back of house McKinney and White know 32 hard-working employees ready to hit the ground running. McKinney can be reached at 603-275-7649, and White can be reached at 603-782-6915.
“We’re all family. We’re a restaurant. We love each other, so we’re going to help each other through,” McKinney said.