Wollongong’s Max Brenner store did a roaring trade on Sunday as people swarmed to the corner of Crown and Keira streets for their last chocolate fix ahead of the store’s impending closure.
Customers lined up by the dozens to order hot chocolates (served in the chain’s signature ‘hug mugs’), eat decadent fondues and gulp down classic milkshakes, at times agreeing to wait up to an hour for their food and drinks due to the overwhelming demand.
But the sudden surge in patronage, while a fond farewell gesture, is too little, too late for the chain’s 15 Wollongong staff.
Come Monday evening, they will all be out of a job.
Store supervisors CJ Smith, Riley Cross and Andre Rodrigo said it had been a whirlwind five days since they learned via media reports that the chain had been placed into voluntary administration.
The trio say their boss assured them they had nothing to worry about and the Wollongong store would “continue to trade as usual” and that their wages “were secure”.
Two days later they were told Max Brenner’s run in Wollongong was over, effective at the close of business on Monday. The store is one of 20 in the chain’s current stable of 37 that will close.
“It’s pretty crushing knowing I don’t have a job anymore,” Mr Smith told the Mercury on Sunday after the end of a hectic shift.
It’s pretty crushing knowing I don’t have a job anymore.
The 18-year-old has been employed for 13 months, working 30-50 hours a week and had hoped to stay in the job while completing university studies.
Fellow shift supervisor Andre Rodrigo said he was disappointed with the company behind the chocolate.
“It was their job to look after us….it’s workers like us who end up getting the bad end of the stick in these situation,” he said.
The 19-year-old, who balances a 15-25 hour working week with full-time university study, said he too had planned to stay at the store throughout his degree but would now have to face finding another job in a region with an already high youth unemployment rate.
“Finding a job in this market is going to be tough,” he said.
However, both teens, along with fellow supervisor Riley Cross, 18, said they have a lot to offer potential employees after their Brenner experience.
“I learned a lot about time management because I worked 20-25 hours a week while doing Year 12. We all have experience managing and leading staff on busy shifts, placing stock orders and money handling, as well as customer service skills,” Ms Cross said.
Any prospective employers wishing to contact Mr Smith, Mr Rodrigo and Ms Cross can call the Mercury on 4221 2206.