West End day care closes abruptly; "I can't struggle anymore,' co-owner says

2014-08-02T17:33:00Z 2014-09-09T16:22:09Z West End day care closes abruptly; "I can't struggle anymore,' co-owner saysBy Nick Balatsos nbalatsos@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Ahead Of The Curve Child Development Center, at 3242 Hesper Road, abruptly closed Saturday, leaving about 45 employees without a job and 200 kids without day care, according to co-owner Brady Wagner. 

Wagner, a former accountant, said he and his estranged wife, Carrie Orr-Wagner, who also co-owns the business, opened the day care Aug. 18, 2008. 

The closure includes a Kids Klubhouse, a 3,600-square-foot building that contains a large indoor playground.

"I can't struggle anymore. The money is not there. It just has to shut down," Wagner said Saturday evening.

A sign on the front door of the business broke the news to families. The closure went into effect immediately. 

The news came as a shock to both employees and clients. Wagner didn't give anyone a heads-up. He said he couldn't.

If he had given employees a notice, Wagner reasoned, he would have lost them before the month was up. And he worried if that happened, he wouldn't be able to keep the staff required by the state to keep the doors open through the month. 

Now, he said, "I can't even sleep at night." 

Before 2008, he and his now-estranged wife had been operating the business out of their home. The new building allowed them to expand to providing care for 300 kids, Wagner said.

He said it was their dream, something into which they sunk their life savings. 

"It was our dream. We wanted to provide great care for the community," Wagner said. 

At first the business started "like rapid fire," he said. They went from 50 clients to 100 then to 200, which is where it plateaued. 

With a $20,000-a-month mortgage, Wagner said, running the business became a constant struggle. They were never able to get the numbers to where they needed to be to pay the bills. 

Wagner said checks for August tuition wouldn't be cashed. For the roughly 15 people who paid in advance, he said, he didn't know the process, but he would make it a priority to reimburse them.

He estimated that the day care employed 45 people. He said they are not owed back pay at the moment, but if they end up being owed anything, he said employees are his first priority. 

"When funds are available, I hope that everyone will be paid to rectify the situation," Wagner said. 

"I'm very sorry. If I could've seen this coming ... I would've made other arrangements," he said. 

"There's no good way of closing the doors," he said. 

Wagner said he was meeting with a lawyer about the closure next week.

He said his estranged wife owns 50 percent of the company. He also said that Krystle Iverson, the center's director, knew nothing of the closure. She was just as shocked to find out as everyone else, he said. 

Marissa Gideon, 33, worked for Wagner for more than three years as the lead teacher for 2-year-olds. She said he was a great boss.

"I loved working for Brady," Wagner said. 

Gideon, with two kids of her own and two kids who belong to her fiance, is now without a job.

"When I heard the news this morning, I just broke down and cried," she said.

She said she's going to miss the kids and worries that they'll now be without day care.

"It's a shame. I'm kind of at a loss right now," she said. 

"I'm hoping he at least notified the parents."

As for herself, Gideon said the news hasn't really sunk in. She hasn't started looking for a job and doubts she'll be able to find one she loves as much. 

Financially, she said, the timing wasn't ideal either. But then again, "Is there ever a good time to lose your job?" she asked. 

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