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Pie Five Pizza abruptly closes in Minnesota

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A sign on the Pie Five Pizza in Woodbury telling customers the store has closed. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)2 / 3
The outdoor sign and interior decor were all removed from the Pie Five Pizza at Woodbury's CityPlace after the Texas-based chain decided to shutter all Minnesota restaurants March 20, 2017. (Bulletin photo by Youssef Rddad)3 / 3

A Texas-based pizza chain abruptly closed several Midwestern stores Monday, including two locations in the Twin Cities metro.

Pie Five Pizza Co., which has operated quick serve restaurants in Eden Prairie and Woodbury for more than a year, said in a statement Monday that it decided to shutter both stores -- and several Chicago area locations -- to focus on its other markets.

“It was truly in the best interest of the brand, our franchisees, shareholders and other team members,” the statement read.

Still, a number of let-go employees in Woodbury are raising sharp criticism toward the company’s handling of the closure, mainly touching on the short notice they received when company representatives told them their store would immediately shut down during an 8 a.m. telephone conference call.

Woodbury store manager Mary Peterson said she discovered the news when a work crew showed up to the restaurant Monday morning and began packing and dismantling equipment prior to the phone call.

Over the clatter of drills and other noise, employees at the store said they listened in on the conference call, which lasted about 10 minutes.

Employees said the short notice, as well as the execution of the store’s tear down, was unprofessional.

“Now everyone’s in a state of disarray, and they don’t know what to do,” said Keenan Sullivan, who had worked at the Woodbury Pie Five for four months. “I want Pie Five to be held accountable.”.

Within a few hours, the signs outside the CityPlace pizza shop had been taken down and much of the interior decor and equipment removed.

“It was so heartless,” said Peterson, 54, adding that the store had enough ingredients to make about 500 pizzas.

She spent part of the day crying and shuttling food destined for the dumpster to a nearby food shelter in Stillwater.

With her daughter's wedding months away, she's unsure how she'll help pay for it.

Peterson said she started working as the Woodbury store manager after leaving a full-time retail position about a month ago that included a pay cut.

Her health insurance and other benefits were set to begin April 1, she said.

On Monday, Peterson received one week’s severance pay.

Sources familiar with the closure said the severance package included a condition that employees don't speak to the press.

Other Woodbury Pie Five workers said they were upset the company gave little explanation for the sudden closure.

“People came in for a normal day of work, and were told, ‘we’re closed; we’re done,’” said Alana St. Cyr, a Tartan High School senior who’s worked at Pie Five in Woodbury for just less than a year.  

St. Cyr had planned to pick up extra hours in the summer before moving to Mankato for college in the fall.

With the abrupt closure, she and about 15 to 20 employees in Woodbury, are reeling to find new jobs.

Although Sullivan has since landed a few job interviews, he said he worries about the younger employees who may not know how to file for unemployment or other forms of temporary relief.

“It’s frustrating that it was so sudden, and the person who’s been working with us knew about it for so long,” St. Cyr said.

She and other former employees said upper-level management had prior knowledge of the impending closure, raising question to why the company continued hiring new staff members, including Peterson.

The company’s Midwest district manager, Robert Thesing, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Jami Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for the company said she doesn’t believe anyone in upper-level management would have known about the closure.

“I don’t think there was any malice on the part of the company,” she said. “Pie Five is known for putting their employees first.”

The closure marks the first business to shutter at the 100-acre CityPlace development, located off Radio Drive near Interstate 94.

Pie Five Pizza opened its locations in Woodbury and Eden Prairie in fall 2015.

Based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the publically traded company operates about 100 stores in the U.S. after launching in 2011.