MINOOKA – Minooka resident Gerald White got a big surprise Tuesday when he went to drop off his son at Royal Child Care and Learning Center – the doors were locked and a note was taped to the door announcing the facility would be shut down as of Friday, with an added hand-written note saying the landlord refused to allow the center to open.
“I did not close the business,” landlord Gene Briscoe said Thursday. “Tiffany [owner of the child care center] came in on Monday, and said she was going to close and she would tell the staff that night and the parents on Tuesday.”
He said he has been working with the owners Tiffany Parker and Anthony Parker for the past two years, trying to get them caught up on rent owed for the center on Wapella Street in Minooka.
“They owe a considerable amount of money, so I figured what is four more days,” Briscoe said. “I told them we could meet Friday night after they closed and as long as they leave the building intact, we could work out an agreement to settle the debt owed.”
When he returned about 8 p.m. Monday to his business office, which is next door to the day care, he saw people carrying items out.
“I asked them what they were doing, and they said they would have to sell items in order to pay their bills,” he said.
Monday night seems to be the last time anyone heard from the Parkers. Attempts by the Morris Daily Herald to reach the owners at business and personal numbers were unsuccessful. Calls to the personal cellphone number for Tiffany Parker, provided by a parent, were greeted with a message stating the number had been changed, disconnected or was no longer in service.
When Briscoe knew when he arrived at his office at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday something was amiss, as the day care doors were closed and there were no employee cars in the parking lot.
Courtney Hinz, a teacher’s assistant at the center, has worked for the Parkers for almost a year, and said she had no idea they planned to close the doors – although looking back she should have seen signs, like lack of supplies being bought.
“When I had to ask for garbage bags several times one day, I figured maybe they were selling the business,” Hinz said.
The business has had three owners in the 12 years it has been located on Wapella Street, so changing owners again wouldn’t have come as a surprise, Briscoe said.
Hinz said Tiffany Parker held a meeting Monday night telling staff they would be closing Friday night, but then she received a text four hours later stating the landlord had closed the doors.
Hinz said while employees are able to collect unemployment, several who had vacation days owed to them have lost those, and a few still are waiting for their final paycheck, although she received hers in the mail Thursday.
Briscoe has paid a couple of the employees to come in and bag the items belonging to the children so they can be returned to the parents, but the medicine box with children’s medicines is missing.
Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer said an informational report was made by a parent stating that their child’s clothes, diapers and medicine were in the building when it was closed. He said he was not made aware that it was not in the building when parents were allowed in to retrieve their items.
Adam and Mary Essary of Minooka used Royal Child Care to watch their 4-year-old daughter, Clara while they work.
Adam said Mary showed up Tuesday morning to the note and had to take a day off work unpaid because they didn’t have child care.
“I lost a whole day’s pay. I’m a teacher, but I teach summer school and get paid only if I’m there,” Mary Essary said.
Unlike other parents, Joelle Warner of Minooka received a text from Tiffany at 11 p.m. Monday letting her know the center would be closed the next day. So she had a chance to find someone to watch her 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte.
“I’ve had at least one child here every year for the past nine years,” she said. “This has left me scrambling for emergency babysitters.”
Warner will have to pay for the day care she secures – despite the fact she said she already paid Royal for the entire month of July.
“I pay monthly, so July is already paid for and it doesn’t look like I will be getting my money back,” Warner said. “Despite the fact [the owner] went to Disney World a couple of weeks ago and bought a horse a couple of months ago and came in and told everyone.”
Before the doors closed, Steve Krause already had questions for the Parkers when he came in and found the infant room at 86 degrees and questioned why it wasn’t being cooled.
“She told me I had to trust her,” Krause said. “I did, and this is what I get.”
The note, signed by both Tiffany and Anthony Parker, on the door read; “It is with great sadness that we must inform you that Friday, July 18 will be our last day in operation. This was not an easy decision, however due to personal and economic reasons this was the best solution to close the door and look to the future.”
To retrieve any items left behind
If your child had items at Royal Child Care and Learning Center. the items can be picked up next door at the office of Gene Briscoe any time from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday in unit 113.