Hallmark to close Enfield distribution center in 2016

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ENFIELD -- Hallmark is closing their Enfield distribution center in 2016, the company confirms. The center employs about 570 people, who were notified Tuesday.

Hallmark Cards, Inc. is based in Kansas City, Missouri and has distribution centers in Texas, Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. The Enfield location opened in 1952, and the current facility opened in 1980.

Hallmark is consolidating the Enfield facility with the center in Liberty, Missouri, and is hiring an additional 400 employees there. Enfield employees can apply for those positions, according to Julie Elliot, the PR director for Hallmark.

The consolidation will begin in January, and any employee who does not move to Missouri will get a severance package, according to Enfield Mayor Scott Kaupin, who said he spoke with the former general manager of the Enfield Hallmark location. That person now works in Missouri.

Kaupin told Fox CT over the phone that the town is disappointed because not only is Hallmark one of the town's biggest taxpayers, but the company is also "very generous" to the community. Hallmark is even one of the big sponsors of Enfield's 4th of July celebration, which is being held this weekend.

The mayor said according to his conversation with the Hallmark higher up, the decision to close was an internal business one to reduce overall costs, and was not at all a reflection of Enfield or the state of Connecticut. When asked if recent tax increases on businesses had any impact, Kaupin said he didn't specifically talk to the former general manager about that, but reiterated that the decision isn't based on Connecticut.

Kaupin estimated several of the 570 employees laid off live in Enfield. FOX CT learned the impact is even broader.

At a local soup kitchen called Enfield Loaves and Fishes, organizers are worried how they will weather the Hallmark closure.

"I don't know what we are going to do financially. This will cost us a lot in the future," said director Priscilla Brayson.

The food pantry uses Hallmark paper cups, napkins, plates, tablecloths and more. Brayson said they serve 100 meals, on average, a day, which adds up to thousands of meals a year and countless products that will no longer be free.

"I don't know what we're going to do without them," said Brayson of Hallmark's donations. "Wintertime, we use primarily the paper products to keep communicable diseases down, you know the flu?"

She and her husband said the Hallmark closure also hurts because the company usually makes a monetary donation to the soup kitchen a few times a year and pays its employees to volunteer at the Loaves and Fishes.

The couple said they'll have to take a hard look at the soup kitchen's budget and perhaps kick up their fundraising efforts to make up for the Hallmark loss.

Earlier Tuesday, State Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, released the following statement:

The loss of 570 local jobs is heartbreaking. This closure will send a tremor throughout our community that will be felt by many. My heart goes out to the families who will be impacted and the hundreds who will be unemployed as a result. Hallmark has been an integral part of our community for over 60 years. This is a huge loss for Enfield.

Kissel's colleague, state Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, also expressed his disappointment in a statement:

This is another sad, but not surprising, piece of news for Connecticut residents. I’m sure Governor Malloy will be quick to jump to excuses for Hallmark’s departure, but the fact remains that there are no excuses for the governor’s failed policies. Unfortunately, this may be the beginning of a mass exodus of Connecticut jobs. Connecticut’s business environment cannot compete with other states. So when a company is deciding between two locations, it’s sadly not surprising that CT would lose that battle. When will this governor and the Democrat majority wake up and see reality?

According to the company website, Hallmark employs 6,100 people full-time in the U.S. and 17,300 work part-time.

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