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Stewart300By Meredith Purintun

When Loryssa Stewart of Smithfield, Utah, got a text message on a Sunday night in November that she was being called into a mandatory meeting at her place of employment, Dunkin’ Donuts, she half-jokingly thought, “I wonder if we’re closing down?” Unfortunately, she was right.

The past year has seen several Cache Valley businesses close up their doors for good: Dunkin’, Gold’s Gym, Sports Authority, KMart, Paradise Bakery, Golden Corral, Pizza Factory and The Rice Garden inside Smith’s.

Stewart is just one of hundreds of local workers who suddenly found themselves without jobs and with little-to-no notice. Since many Cache Valley businesses employ students and generally don’t pay very well, finding yourself without work can be a life-altering event.

Stewart, who was hired at Dunkin’ Donuts a week before they opened, wasn’t entirely surprised about the closing. “Even though we did really well in the beginning, business did slow down and we were being told all of the time, that we weren’t making the company money. But they had signed a five-year lease on the building so that gave me some hope.”

Stewart quit her previous job to join the Dunkin’ team and was convinced she’d found a steady job for the near future. Employees were devastated that Sunday evening. “We were crying and hugging each other. Your co-workers become like family to you.”

Workers were told they were welcome to come back at 4 a.m. the next morning and help dismantle equipment and tear stuff down. “They said everything had to be out that week. But, it was a few more hours of work and we did get to watch whatever we wanted on the TVs.”

Employees were given the option to transfer to other businesses owned by the Sizzling Platter company like Sizzler and Little Caesars. “We were told bluntly though, that we weren’t guaranteed new jobs or many hours at those jobs.”

Stewart hired on at Sizzler as soon as she could. “It’s been OK, but I’m struggling with only getting about 13 hours a week, where I was getting at least 30 at Dunkin.” She has been looking for other work, but it hasn’t been easy. “I’ve been on a few interviews, but there doesn’t seem to be much out there right now. I try as best as I can to pick up extra shifts.”

The most difficult thing about losing a steady 30-hour a week paycheck is “I had to quit school. I can’t afford tuition and books on only 6-12 hours a week.”

Stewart, who is a freshman at Utah State University, says she absolutely would have been a student this semester if she didn’t lose her job.

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Meredith Purintun is a freelance-writing living in Logan, Utah. She can be reached at meredith1841@hotmail.com