Camera shop employees say they were lied to, fired

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By DREW CARTER

Employees of an Oak Park camera shop say they were lied to, then fired shortly after the business changed hands.

Holiday Camera & Video, which has stores in Broadview and Geneva, took over the camera shop at 1053 Lake St., formerly a Helix Camera & Video location.

Employees, including the store's former manager, said they were told near the end of last year by the incoming owners not to worry: employees would all have jobs after the takeover, and if Holiday needed to let anybody go, they would be given adequate notice.

But after taking over the store on Monday, Jan. 16, the new owners fired most of the store's employees, including two who co-workers say were both there more than 20 years.

"Most of our customers we were on a first-name basis with," said Jeff Senne, who was the store's manager for more than three years. "What bothers me now is how we were misled by the new company."

Employees told Wednesday Journal that they had been told, through a series of meetings, that they would not lose their jobs, or that they would be given adequate notice if Holiday needed to lay off anyone.

Holiday representatives declined to respond to the employees' allegations. Employees identified Mike Lebarre and Thomas Davy as co-owners. Lebarre said he could not comment on personnel matters. Davy refused to answer any questions.

Senne said two employees had worked there since the shop was Oak Park Camera.

He said the shop won't be the same without them. Senne resigned after having to fire nearly his entire staff.

Michael Evangelista, formerly the store's assistant manager, wasn't entirely clear last week how he'd lost his job.

"I really wasn't given a reason," Evangelista said. "I confronted the owner and I asked him why he laid off five people when we were told everyone was going to keep our jobs, or at least they'd give us adequate notice."

Evangelista said the question quickly turned into an argument, with the owner repeating he would accept Evangelista's resignation.

"He kept asking me to give him my keys," Evangelista said.

Employees said adding insult to the situation was that they were kept long enough to work through the transition?#34;moving out the old merchandise, cleaning the store, and moving in new merchandise.

Matthew Koerber, a former part-time Helix employee, was "baffled" by his firing, as he formerly worked at a video store that changed ownership and all employees were given plenty of notice to find new jobs.

"I would have stayed until they told me to," Koerber said.

A Helix representative would not comment on the matter.

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