MOUNT VERNON – When Fredericktown resident Kathryn Flack awoke at 2 a.m. Thursday to feed her baby, she didn’t expect to find her phone blowing up with messages.
She began scrolling, only to find the one that started it all: an email from her boss, Jake’s Steakhouse managing partner Tim DeRodes. It had been sent to all of the restaurant’s employees at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday.
“While the journey has been great, it is with great regret that Jake’s Mount Vernon will be closed effective Thursday, September 26,” said the email, which Flack provided to Knox Pages via a screenshot.
Flack was shocked.
“We were all left in the dark,” the former server said.
Flack said she was one of 38 employees to lose their job when Jake’s abruptly announced its closure late Wednesday night. DeRodes announced the closure publicly this morning in a letter to customers posted on the restaurant’s front door, saying that the steakhouse would be closing Thursday after 18 years of business in Mount Vernon.
In the email sent to employees, DeRodes – who founded Jake’s 18 years ago alongside his former partner – cited financial struggles as the reason for closing the 996 Coshocton Road location.
“We had many years of success and some years that were not as good,” DeRodes told employees. “In the last eight months, I’ve made some bad financial decisions due in part to heavy repair and maintenance and lost sales.
“I’ve come to realize that the financial distress that the company is in at this time has made it difficult to successfully run the day-to-day operations.”
DeRodes, who owns all three Jake's locations, added that “this was not a decision I made lightly. Jake’s of Mount Vernon has been a part of my life for almost 20 years. I regret how this will affect you and your family.”
Employees will receive their regularly scheduled paycheck on Friday, DeRodes said, and “any time worked over the last four days will be paid October 11th.”
DeRodes did not respond to phone calls and emails from Knox Pages on Thursday. Representatives from the company’s other two locations – in Ashland and Wooster – said Thursday morning that they were prepared to open today. Neither seemed to be aware of the news that the Mount Vernon location had closed.
‘I had no idea this was coming’
Flack and several other former Jake’s employees told Knox Pages similar tales of shock, confusion and disgust on Thursday when discussing the way Jake’s Steakhouse handled the closure.
One former employee, Cindy Wilson, said she had worked at Jake’s since the restaurant first opened in Mount Vernon nearly two decades ago. She was told at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday not to come into work the next day.
“I had no idea this was coming,” she said in an email.
Flack didn’t see it coming, either. She did, however, recall two incidents that occurred while working at Jake’s on Wednesday evening – in the business’s final hours – that now seem ominously tied to the news she would receive later that night.
“They were changing the locks and told us they were just fixing the doors,” Flack said in an email.
Then, later on, another oddly timed act:
“At the end of the evening, the district manager bought us all drinks at the bar to our surprise,” Flack recalled. “Guilty conscience might have gotten to him, as we were all conversing, having a good time after a long shift.”
Now, Flack will have to scramble to find employment in order to support her child.
“As a single mother with no support, I counted on this job,” Flack said. “Now, I am on the hunt once again.”
Many of Flack’s fellow employees shared similar concerns. Kimberly Wintz, of Mount Vernon, said she celebrated her one-year anniversary at Jake’s on Wednesday. Hours later, the server was left jobless.
“We work for tips, so that’s how we save for rent and feed our children,” Wintz said in a Facebook message. “So yeah, it f****d us and it’s super sad that they would do us like that.”
Wintz called the company’s approach to closing the restaurant “extremely shocking” and “rude,” considering how little notice employees received ahead of time.
“We all depend on this place,” said Wintz, who has two children at home. “But it looks like we shouldn’t have.”
Flack, who worked at Jake’s Steakhouse for four months, said Thursday afternoon that she is “still in shock” about the way things went down. Like Wintz, she implied a feeling of betrayal, as she recalled “showing up to work even with the air conditioning not working for weeks, while the kitchen reached temperatures up to 100 degrees.”
Since Knox Pages broke the news of Jake’s Steakhouse’s closing Thursday morning, numerous local business owners have posted comments under the story’s Facebook post about job openings. Click the comment icon on the post below to open Facebook and see the full post: