by Susan Ellis
"To those employees, I'm sorry. I wish we could keep it going," says Jerry Vela, regarding the sudden closing of 7 CK's Coffee Shops.
Vela and brother-in-law Randy Gross took over several locations of the coffee shop chain in June 2010. On Sunday, July 29th, after the first shift, they closed the coffee shops for good. (There are three locations that Vela and Gross do not own that remain open.)
They say they closed on Sunday without notice to their employees to avoid theft. Gross says the move was to protect assets and was not malicious.
Going over his time with CK's, Gross says, "The first year was great."
Plans were made to expand with new locations, but after January of this year, according to Gross and Vela, the business was struggling.
"Two words: economic stress," Vela says. "It went down and down and down. There was only so much we could put in to it."
Part of the issue the pair has with the stories about the closings is that they don't reflect their side. (The CA story notes that attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.) Vela says that he may have had 3 days off in the time they owned the business, that he spent more time with his employees than he did with his own family.
Both Vela and Gross say that they should have closed much sooner than they did but kept the CK's open for their employees.
According to Vela, they went to each location they own on Sunday after the second shift. They told employees they were shutting down the business and to get their personal belongings. Then they locked the doors.
"Our employees are hard workers," Vela says. "This has hurt their lives and my life."
Both say they have talked to some CK's employees and that "most understand."
"We're not bad people," Vela says. "We tried. Unfortunately, we failed."