Employees had no warning that Zeke’s was closing, kitchen manager says

NOW: Employees had no warning that Zeke’s was closing, kitchen manager says

DOWAGIAC, Mich.—Jason Riddle left work around 4 p.m. on Sunday after a normal shift running the line in the kitchen at Zeke’s Restaurant on Front Street in downtown Dowagiac.

By Monday night, 20-year-old Riddle, along with his co-workers, no longer had a job.

“We got a text on our day off saying that Zeke’s was permanently closed with no type of warning,” Riddle said. “I was pretty upset. I would have liked at least a week’s notice, a couple of days would’ve been better than nothing.”

Riddle said he began working at Zeke’s 11 months ago as a line cook and worked his way up to becoming one of three kitchen managers.

He said that only managers received the text message informing them of the closure, so it was up to him to let employees know they were no longer employed.

“I felt as bad as they probably did,” Riddle said.

The Cassopolis native didn’t expect the closure, though he noticed business was slower than usual, he said that this time of year, restaurants just see less traffic.

Riddle said he enjoyed working at Zeke's and is disappointed that he now has to find another job.

Final checks were mailed out to employees, Riddle said.

Another former employee, who wished to remain anonymous and speak off camera, echoed Riddle’s love of working at the restaurant and said everyone was very close.

She said the restaurant went about letting everyone go in the wrong way and said the owners left employees in a “terrible position.”

The restaurant posted to its now-defunct Facebook page that it was abruptly closing on January 28. A reason for the closure was not given.

Attempts to reach owners for comment on the closure and handling of employees were not returned by the time of this writing. The phone number listed for the business is no longer in service.

The over 8,000 square foot property at 109 N. Front Street is listed for sale and according to the sales representative in charge of selling the property, if the business as a whole does not receive an offer soon, it will head to auction in March.

According to the real estate listing on Last Bid Real Estate, the 30-year-old business was put up for sale because the owner is retiring.

Across the street from Zeke’s, at longtime downtown staple Caruso’s, owner Julie Johnson said she’s sad to see the restaurant go.

“I was quite surprised to hear, I had no idea that was coming,” Johnson said. “ I was also saddened, it’s very sad when something as big as Zeke’s in a small town closes. You don’t like to see any empty stores in our downtown areas, but I think somebody will probably snatch it up, I’m hoping so.”

Johnson said she’s eaten at the restaurant many times and had a good experience. Other local business owners echoed her sadness over the closure off camera, as well.

“It was a favorite spot for many,” Johnson said.

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