More than 300 Justin Brands' employees in Southwest Missouri who have been out of work for several months were told Monday that the company will permanently keep closed its two western boot plants in the area.
The company, which had declined previous interview requests, announced the closings in a statement on social media Tuesday evening.
"The closure of the Justin and Chippewa factories in Cassville and Carthage, Missouri, was a difficult decision brought about by unprecedented times. Unfortunately, the economic reality has forced us to make hard decisions that are necessary to sustain the legacy of our brands long into the future. We recognize the skill that has gone into the footwear produced in Missouri over the years, which is why we have asked our Missouri workers to consider the possibility of relocating to one of our other factories. Making high quality boots is an art, and we value their skills, loyalty, and dedication."
The company on March 31 filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) letter, stating that it was closing its factories at 2236 Missouri Ave., Carthage, and 1110 Presley Drive, Cassville. At the time, the company had 171 Carthage workers, and 147 Cassville employees.
In that letter, the company said it closed both factories on March 20, and added, "The company intends for these closings to be temporary and hopes to be able to re-employ its affected workers when the facilities reopen, hopefully in less than six months. However, due to the ongoing unprecedented public health crisis concerning the coronavirus, it is uncertain when and/or whether this will occur."
Justin Brands at that time also shut down most of its retail operations in Missouri, affecting another 14 workers — seven people each in Joplin and Monett. There was no announcement about the fate of those operations.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. purchased Justin Brands, based in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2000.