Vann’s Acquisition LLC’s chief executive officer confirmed Friday that 17 employees were laid off statewide this week, saying it was a necessary business decision to help the business right its ship.
The majority of the layoffs occurred at the Missoula corporate office and a warehouse in Lolo. Other layoffs were spread out between the company’s five electronics and appliance stores around the state, said Greg Regelbrugge, Vann’s CEO.
The layoffs affected only operational staff and were not based on performance, said Regelbrugge, who did not give an exact number of Missoula employees who were laid off.
“An example is if we had a sales manager and operations manager in a store, we now have the sales manager doing both jobs, or an operations manager doing both jobs. That was the structure, to take two positions and make it one,” Regelbrugge said. “We had oversized company operations and staff in the corporate office, and that hurts the ability to turn the company around.”
The bankrupt Vann’s stores were purchased by the Florida-based Khaledi Group in November. Regelbrugge bought into the new company and is one of the owners of Vann’s Acquisition. He has said he wants to bring the company back to its core business of selling high-end appliances to Montana customers.
All Vann’s employees were told that they were “probationary employees with a company that had been there for less than 30 days,” Regelbrugge said.
Terminated employees will be paid on the next payday, according to a policy similar to that in the employee handbook written by the previous Vann’s owners, Regelbrugge said.
“We also told them we were happy to offer references, tell future employers they were valuable employees who should be considered,” he said.
Regelbrugge said the focus is on building Vann’s inventory, as well as its sales and customer service teams.
“I know that it sounds counterintuitive, but we do need sales people in the stores. We’ve got stores that need to hire; hopefully, we’ll find people who have retail sales experience. We need installers and drivers,” he said. “We are putting all the emphasis on the stores, where we touch the customers.”
Vann’s filed for bankruptcy in August. In September, management gave a 60-day closure notice to its almost 150 employees. Several potential buyers expressed interest in the stores as the company moved through bankruptcy court, but the Khaledis were the only ones to submit a letter of intent to purchase Vann’s.
The $4.5 million sale was completed on Nov. 6.
Regelbrugge understands it is a hard time of year to deal with layoffs. But he added that cutting jobs now may save jobs in the future.
“I stand by it as a good business decision, but I get this is a tough time of year to do it. I wish we had another option,” Regelbrugge said.
Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at email@example.com.