Bargain shop shut down soon

Unemployment on horizon for nine employees at The Bargain Shop in Burns Lake.

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The Bargain Shop (TBS) in Burns Lake will be closing its doors shortly in a move by the company to avoid going into bankruptcy. Three companies: TBS Acquireco Inc., The Bargain! Shop Holdings Inc., and TBS Stores Inc. (collectively “The Bargain! Shop”), have applied for creditor protection in the Ontario Superior Court under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

The local store, which has been operating in Burns Lake for more than 10 years, is one of 28 stores in the district. The store employs four full-time workers and five part-time workers.

District manager, Rick Brink, declined to comment on the store closure and asked all calls to go through an Ernst & Young representative. Ernst & Young did not return phone calls by press time.

Blenda Bueckert has worked at the store for the past five years and recently became the store manager. She is a 20-year resident of Burns Lake and describes the local store as tight-knit group of employees, ‘family’,  who have gotten to know their regulars over the years.

She learned of the pending closures on Feb. 27, 2013 during a conference call with 55 managers of affected stores. It was left to Bueckert to break the news to the rest of the employees.

Three of the workers at the local store will face unique difficulties with the sudden store closure. One employee’s partner has a child on the way. Another employee’s husband was a mill worker unable to return to work since the Babine Forest Products sawmill explosion last Jan. 20, 2012.

A third employee had reportedly just returned from a maternity leave only to find out that she will soon lose her job.  She is unlikely to be eligible for unemployment benefits after having used them for her maternity leave.

Fortunately there are many jobs available in Burns Lake.

Burns Lake WorkBC Employment Services Centre manager Halley Finch reports that about 30 full and part-time jobs are currently listed for the Burns Lake area.

“Coming into a busy spring, local businesses could be looking for extra help once all of the construction projects and summer tourist season start up,” she said.

But available jobs don’t necessarily mean security, and nobody wants to be out looking for work.

At the end of the day last Friday employees learned that their store hours would be reduced form nine to six hours, causing reduced pay cheques even before the last one has been issued.

For now the only thing the employees know with certainty is that in two weeks a liquidation company will come in and take over the final sale of store merchandise.