Family photos are very important, so it's easy to imagine how upset people were when dozens of portrait studios closed down without notice.
Former employees and customers were both surprised when Portrait Studios in Walmarts and Sears just shut down and a lot of families said they just want the pictures they paid for.
Sitting for a portrait at Sears or Walmart has been a tradition for generations of some families. But now those photography studios are a thing of the past.
"It's not like they said, 'oh, by the way, don't come in tomorrow. We're closed. It's unfortunate. It really is," said Misty Goucher, a former employee.
Goucher worked at the Independence Center Mall location on and off for 16 years. Her friend still worked there up until Wednesday – that's when she showed up to work and learned she no longer had a job.
"She went ahead and got into the computer and all the scheduled appointments and called them and said, 'hey, I'm sorry. We're closed,'" Goucher said.
CPI Corp., based in St. Louis was heavily in debt, according to the St. Louis Business Journal. It lost $20 million in the third quarter of last year. The paper printed a letter the president and CEO of the company, Jim Abel, wrote to his employees which reads in part "the decline of our business proved too great an obstacle to overcome and we will be forced to discontinue our US operations effective today, April 3."
The letter went on to say, "I want to thank each and everyone one of you for your hard work and dedication to this company, as we explored every opportunity to restructure the Company for a profitable future."
But CPI had not said how or even if they will compensate the families who don't have their pictures.
"If the whole company shut down, people who took pictures as recently as Wednesday may never get them," Goucher said.
A Walmart spokeswoman told KCTV5's Dave Jordan over the phone that CPI informed them of their decision to close their photo studios and Walmart is currently working to make sure customers get their pictures and orders that they've placed.
A Sears spokesman said the company is exploring all options to potentially provide photography services.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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