The apparent closing of the Chapel Street frozen yogurt shop Pinkberry is not as simple as it once seemed.
Yesterday, the Pinkberry Corporate office issued a statement over email to the News saying that the store — which has appeared vacant as of late — is only temporarily closed.
But employees interviewed believe differently, contending that the store has not only permanently closed, but also failed to pay its workers.
According to several employees, the frozen yogurt shop has withheld payment from many of the employees, even after being closed since late September. Some workers still have not received up to $800 in payment, said Romello Pouncey, an employee who has been working at Pinkberry since it opened in April.
In response to questions about worker wage fraud, Pinkberry Senior Vice President of Marketing and Design, Laura Jakobsen said that the corporate office is investigating the situation.
“It is of the highest priority for us to get to the bottom of the situation with the local franchisee and ensure it is rectified,” she said.
Jermaine Ramirez Bulls, who recently quit his job at the Chapel Street location, said that Pinkberry still “owes him at least $200.” Pouncey said Pinkberry owes him about $400 in unpaid checks.
Desmond Raymond, another employee currently enrolled in Gateway Community College, said one female co-worker was missing $600 in wages even after two months, and that another Pinkberry employee sued the franchise owner in order to receive his payment. Raymond said that although he has received all of his wages, they were never paid on time.
“Checks would bounce more frequently than they would ever go through,” Bulls said. When the employees, including managers, reached out to the franchise owner about the inconsistency of payment, they received no responses, Pouncey said.
Pouncey said that management has become more disorganized after the original manager left after not getting paid. Pouncey said that in addition to the wage theft, he was forced to work long shifts, sometimes alone without a manager. He called Pinkberry “the worst place to work at.”
Three Pinkberry New Haven employees interviewed contend that the store closed because of mismanagement and lack of business. Meanwhile, Pouncey said that Pinkberry closed after receiving an eviction notice.
“It closed because the whole franchise was disorganized,” Bulls said. “The workplace was horrible, there were fruit flies everywhere and the workers were … working far more hours than they were paid.”
Though the workers interviewed said they “highly doubt” Pinkberry will begin functioning again, Jamie Carson, the Pinkberry franchise owner stated in a Sunday email to the News that he was “intending to relaunch in self-serve.” He did not elaborate about why the store closed down.
The workers also commented on Pinkberry’s lack of business. Raymond said that Pinkberry was “barely getting business” and that it was expensive relative to other frozen yogurt stores such as Froyo World, which is just down the street from Pinkberry.
At least 15 workers quit their jobs before Pinkberry officially closed, Raymond said, including himself and his manager. He added that, “[Pinkberry was] paying its workers correctly when it first opened but it became gradually more disorganized.”
Raymond and Pouncey also said that the lack of professionalism on the store premises contributed to the closing. Raymond said that people who did not work at Pinkberry were permitted behind the counter. Chris Walker, the shift manager of the Starbucks next door, also noted that the Pinkberry management frequently sent employees to Starbucks to borrow supplies, like receipt paper and pastry gloves.
In addition, Jakobsen, said in a Sunday email to the News that Pinkberry’s management has not yet determined how long the store will be closed. She did not comment on why the store closed in the first place.
“Pinkberry enjoys being a part of the community and we look forward to continuing to serve the people of New Haven in the future with our one of a kind experience and light, refreshing and craveable Pinkberry frozen yogurt,” she said.
Since its first store opening in 2005, Pinkberry has established almost 250 stores domestically and internationally.