July 3, 2007 in Business

Skippers closes, sells diners

By The Spokesman-Review
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Skippers Seafood ‘n Chowder House at 3316 N. Monroe St. was vacant Monday.
(Full-size photo)

Skippers Seafood ‘n Chowder House eateries in Eastern Washington and North Idaho served their last fish-and-chips baskets last week, closing as a part of the chain’s bankruptcy settlement approved Friday.

SeaTac-based Skippers Inc. planned to close 23 stores, including three in Spokane and one in Coeur d’Alene, and to sell 28 others, according to documents filed in federal bankruptcy court in Seattle. An estimated 50 to 60 Skippers employees lost their jobs after closures here, a Skippers manager in Spokane said.

Some local workers learned of the layoffs Tuesday, said Toney Fiscalini, former manager of the Skippers on North Division Street, which closed at 10 p.m. Saturday.

“It shocked everybody,” Fiscalini said. “Because we were told of an impending sale of the company, but we were told that all of us would still have our jobs, that there weren’t going to be any major changes.”

Corporate officials couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

James Day, an attorney for Skippers Inc., said he believed all 23 restaurants slated for closure were shuttered by Saturday, and sales had been completed on many of the others. The corporation will dissolve after sales are completed, he said.

Operating 59 restaurants in five Western states, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, according to court documents. Skippers once had more than 200 restaurants throughout the Northwest and Canada, including more locally.

Initial court documents showed the company owed roughly $6.8 million, including at least $21,000 in unpaid debt to Tomlinson Black Management Inc. of Spokane. Tomlinson Black manages the North Division property for an investment group, said Tom Hix, senior vice president.

But business had been picking up at area Skippers, including the four-year-old North Division location, Fiscalini said.

“It was just a shame, because everything was starting to turn around for us,” he said.

“The last couple of days, people were up in arms. We actually had a couple people cuss out the managers because we were closing.”

Court papers list 16 Washington stores approved for sale to other companies or individuals, including those in Wenatchee and Union Gap. The company planned to close locations in the Tri-Cities, Moses Lake, Yakima and Boise.

Founded in 1969 in Bellevue, Wash., Skippers’ menus offered seafood dishes ranging from popcorn shrimp to halibut, many of them with fries. A group of Northwest investors bought the company in late 2002, according to the company’s Web site.

Post Falls resident Richard Bevans said he was “shocked” upon finding the Skippers in Coeur d’Alene closed on Sunday, and he called the Spokane locations to see if they were still open. The 46-year-old said he has eaten at Skippers for more than 30 years.

“I just liked their customer service, but I liked their fish and chips, I admit that,” Bevans said. “My wife loved their shrimp.”

“All in all, it was a very good corporation to work for,” Fiscalini said. “The way they handled the end was very bad on everyone’s part. All the employees agree on that.”

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