Employees were called in Monday to the Sonic Drive-Thru at 1425 N. Bridge St. in Elkin for a meeting to learn that their jobs had been eliminated after the restaurant had been shut down that morning.
A media statement from Director of Communications Kristin Davis of SONIC regarding the closing, noted, “This SONIC drive-in was independently owned and operated by licensed franchisees who reluctantly decided for financial reasons to close the drive-in as of July 11. The franchisees appreciate the community’s support of the drive-in since its opening in 1997. Elkin’s SONIC fans can still visit a drive-in nearby in Mount Airy, to enjoy their favorite Cherry Limeades and other SONIC items.”
“I’m furious and it’s not even furious for myself, it’s furious for the other employees,” said employee Olivia Phillips. “When you work somewhere you form relationships with the people that you work with and you understand their home life and then when an unfortunate event like this happens and they lose their job, you know their home-life that they’re struggling to make ends meet and support their children. You really feel for them. It was unfair and dirty all the way around.”
“My mother, my stepmother, and my four little brothers all moved down from New Hampshire because she had a guaranteed job here,” said employee Liam Stocktom. “Three of us were working here. We were expecting to at least get through the summer, then she was planning to go back to being a bus driver when the school year started back up.”
According to District Manager Chuck Bodine, the main reason for the store’s closing has been due to a lack of sales over the past few months.
“I can tell you that the driving factor is because we’re simply losing money. That is all,” said Bodine. “When we’re not making money, it doesn’t make sense to be open. This is our season. We do most of our business June, July, August, and September. We posted last month, the writing’s on the wall. We’re not interested in business if we’re not making money. Our group took over the store about eight years ago and we’ve really struggled with it. We just couldn’t make it work.”
Other employees believe that the reasons for the closing have stemmed from issues with hours and people quitting due to low satisfaction of the job. According to them, it has been a big mess all around.
Some employees believe the business was actually picking up these past few weeks and are shocked by the sudden closing.
“Our new general manager, Linda Adams, she moved down here to turn the store around and make it a better store,” said Phillips. “We had just now started making more sales and were profiting. On the weekends, we were packed, all the stalls were full. It was really going good. The service had improved a lot. Then we had been told this morning that we had lost all of our jobs and they were closing down. They didn’t give us no time to put in applications anywhere else. They said they could put in a recommendation to another SONIC but nothing was guaranteed.”
Several employees are furious with the sudden closure as none of them had been given any notice in advance.
“He should’ve given us a week’s notice so we could put in applications and get another job because now I have no job,” said Phillips. “And it’s not even about me, it’s about the other employees who have kids. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a car payment. I just had a summer job to raise money for a trip. But there are other families who have like five children in their household. My mother is a minimum-wage-type deal and fighting to survive in this economy is a big issue.”
“There’s no way they knew just two days ago that they had to shut down,” said Stocktom. “They knew months ago that they would have to shut the store down because we weren’t making the money, but we had a couple of months to make that up. We were supposed to close in October if we didn’t make the money, but now it’s closing way before October. Most of us were scheduled today for this meeting when Chuck told Linda that he wanted a meeting at 2. Linda asked him if it was going to be a bad meeting and he said no. How is this not bad? This is displacing all of your employees at your store. Linda also had no warning until today either, otherwise she would not have hired two people today who were supposed to come in for training this week.”
Many of the former employees already are making plans to look for work.
“I’m just going to plan to get a new job,” said Isaac Lamm. “I’m going to school. I’m getting an education.”
“My family is just looking for jobs everywhere possible,” said Stocktom. “Everywhere down here pays only so much for their employees. All three of us have to get jobs just to support the family. We have seven people in our household.
“This is my first job at SONIC and it will be my last, by far,” said Phillips. “I love the people I work with dearly, but the upper management, it was just dirty all the way around.”
Sonic’s corporate office had not responded to requests for information on other locations which might be closing, how many employees were left without jobs and what will happen to the property where the Elkin restaurant was located as of press time.
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.