On June 19, Marble Slab franchise owner Andrea Schlegel-Parsons was locked out of her store by intruders from Marble Slab’s head office, leaving the store and the jobs of the locations’ employees hanging in the balance.
In a statement to CTV, Marble Slab Creamery stated that they plan to reopen the location in a few weeks.
Schlegel-Parsons said that at 8.a.m. last Monday, she was informed by the security company for the store that intruders had entered the premises. When she looked at the security footage, she saw that the intruders had ripped out the security system and cut the wires, and she arrived at the building to find that the locks had been changed as well.
Although Schlegel-Parsons is the only name on the lease, the people from the head office asserted that they had every right to be in the building, and said that they had hired a bailiff to break the locks and enter the building. “In order to maintain the peace, I agreed that the store would be locked until there was an order from a judge confirming that I am the tenant of that building,” she said.
The head office has stationed security guards in front of the store, where Schlegel-Parsons along with several staff set up a booth last week to inform curious passersby of the situation.
Carolina Zamora, a political science student who works at the location, said that the closure has been quite stressful, as the student workers rely on their pay to cover things like tuition, rent, groceries and more. Zamora pointed out that one student is a full-time caretaker for her mother, while the international students who need the work hours to receive their permanent residency are also left hanging.
“By not having access to our jobs [with] literally two hours’ notice … we can’t even apply for other jobs,” Zamora said. Some of the staff have begun looking for other jobs, while other staff are staying and hoping that they can return to work soon.
Zamora described the additional time needed to raise awareness around the issue on top of her existing co-op and school schedules, stating that the situation had “definitely taken a toll on [her] schedule.”
Despite the difficulties, Schlegel-Parsons emphasized recognition of her staff and their efforts to support her. “I am inspired by my staff. So I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for all of them,” she said.
Schlegel-Parsons attributed the sudden shutdown to an association she began with other Marble Slab franchisees in an effort to improve “much broken communication” in the system and give franchisees’ voices a place to be heard. Shortly after she began the association, an email was sent from head office stating that they would start up an advisory council, something Schlegel-Parsons believes was “in an effort to make the association less popular.”
“I had asked them if the Advisory Council was going to be based on the best practices as per the Canadian Franchise Association, the CFA, and they said yes, but they never provided me proof,” Schlegel-Parsons said, stating that the head office also never provided the terms of reference.
“In fact, through the association, it was disclosed that many of these members actually didn’t meet the criteria for which the franchisors selected the franchisees,” she said.
Despite it being within her legal rights to start the association, she described a string of retaliations from the head office, including additional inspections of the store in contrast to the norm of one annual inspection. Schlegel-Parsons also received a letter of default in September, claiming that she had failed to meet certain requirements in the franchise agreement. Despite putting forth several challenges in response to the defaults, Schlegel-Parsons never received a full response to her concerns.
One example she cited was that after being informed that she had failed to purchase mandatory products, she requested a comprehensive list of the items the store must have and where they could be purchased from, something that never arrived.
Another series of events that led to the shutout was incited by an ultimatum presented to Schlegel-Parsons in April. She said that the head office had told her that she had not cured the defaults, and that she could sign an agreement to sell the store in the fall under their terms (including indemnifying them and paying for their legal expenses incurred so far), or her franchise agreement would be terminated within seven days.
According to Schlegel-Parsons, the franchise agreement states that if there is an uncured default, the franchisee must receive 30 days’ notice before the contract can be terminated. “There is no default against me because none of the accusations that they have accused me of [have] any validity,” Schlegel-Parsons said. She emphasized her passion towards quality, and stated that she has won several best operator awards at previous franchisee conventions.
After the 30 days had passed with operations continuing as normal, Schlegel-Parsons and her lawyer determined that the head office’s claims were null and void since they had not executed them. Schlegel-Parsons has also filed a small claim for the money she has spent dealing with the default accusations laid against her by the head office.