Bruce Smith Drugs, struggling to reopen after being closed since Nov. 7, failed to pay its employees for their work the last two weeks before shutting its doors, according to Penny Carminucci, the store’s front counter manager.
Carminucci said 15 employees at the store were not paid for their work from Oct. 23 through Nov. 5, the Saturday before the well-known Prairie Village business closed. They have reached out to the Kansas Department of Labor with their complaint, she said.
The problem began last week, Carminucci said, when Debbie Richmond, the pharmacy manager and daughter of the store owner Bill Richmond, began contacting employees to tell them the business was preparing to reopen.
“Most people were planning to go back and then last Friday I was contacted and told the weren’t going to pay us for the two weeks before we closed,” she said.
“When I texted Debbie and asked why, she said ‘the banks seized all accounts and used the funds for other payments they felt were necessary.'”
Attempts to reach Debbie Richmond for comment were unsuccessful.
Last week, Richmond told the Shawnee Mission Post the store owners expect to be back in business by the beginning of the year. In a previous interview, Richmond said the store had been struggling financially and had closed its doors to allow time for restructuring.
Carminucci said she has reached out to her fellow employees to help them obtain the necessary forms from the state to seek compensation. She added that she believed the store has the assets to pay its employees for the two weeks before it closed.
“There are assets on those shelves, commons sense tells you either sell them for cash to provide employees with checks or to the new company that will run the reopened business,” she said.
Bruce Smith Drugs has been a Northeast Johnson County landmark since the store opened in the Village Shops in 1955. Bill Richmond started as a soda jerk there before becoming a pharmacist and ultimately buying the business from its namesake.
In its heyday in the 1960s, there were four Bruce Smith Drugs in the metro, including one in the Country Club Plaza. The Plaza store closed in the 1990s.
At the time the closing was announced, Debbie Richmond observed, “We’re one of the last independents. We’re rare anymore and it’s caught up to us with the price of drugs and insurance companies telling people where to go.”