Lenox Group Inc. and its henchman

Didn’t really get a whole lot done today.

Thanks, Lenox Group Inc.

This company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few weeks back. It’s the wussy kind of bankruptcy, the one that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the company, but a probation type setup where the court watches over all the corporate finances in exchange for keeping creditors off the company’s ass.

Well, go figure, Lenox China – a factory here in Kinston – announced it will be closing its factory outlet store on Jan. 15 to cut costs.

Oh wait – no they’re not, as I learned today.

Well, maybe they are, as I learned even later than I learned they’re not.

At least I’m confident I went home having got the story correct.

Trouble is, what began as a minor story – a basic compilation of all the community’s efforts to keep this city fixture in business as well as contact information for the corporate gents behind the initial decision to shut it down so others can voice their opinion to them – turned into a time-consuming headache.

After “completing” the community outreach story, the manager of the plant here in Kinston returns a message I left him earlier in the day. He tells me they’re going to keep it open – but only on a seasonal schedule according to the holidays.

Fine. New story. At least I broke something.

I no sooner get that draft done and begin on some other stories when my phone rings with a call from Mr. Corporate up in Bristol, Penn. He tells me there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen – they’re definitely closing on Jan. 15, but may reopen in July and December for roughly a month at a time.

Now I’m pissed. I end up axing out all the community voices I’d spent roughly two hours compiling for the original story, sifting through the local plant manager’s input and coming away with a basic news story – albeit a breaking on – that took no more than 40 minutes to write (and that’s with a whiny, exhausted 3-year-old I had to pick up from daycare amidst this whole masquerade screaming about not having the eraser she wants).

I don’t know how many people appreciate the work reporters for their local newspaper do. I have one story in tomorrow’s paper – granted, it is the biggest one – but it represents a 10-hour workday.

Allllll that being said, and I do apologize for taking so long to spit it out, what I gathered from the people I spoke to was something I already knew: all too often, corporate bigshots simply do not give a damn about the individual places and people their decisions have the most impact on.

This man from the corporate office was nice. He leveled with me, was down to Earth. And I see his points: the outlet store doesn’t bring in money for an already-struggling company, boom – axe the outlet store. His job is to cut the fat and he apparently does it very well.

But off the cuff – the stuff I could not ethically print – he was extremely degrading toward the matter.

“Oh, I guess it’s a big deal down there,” he said as I began to ask more intrusive questions in our interview. It was almost unbelievable to think people gave a shit about the outlet store for a man who probably drops places like these for companies all the time.

I even threw him a bone.

“Well, can you give me some numbers to demonstrate how poorly this store is doing? Maybe say ‘the store should be pulling in x-amount of dollars and is only pulling in this?” I asked.

As I expected, he didn’t have those numbers in front of him, nor was he about to find out just so he could save face in front of a people he’ll probably never see. He refused.

“How about a percentage – would you say the store is bringing in 50 percent of what it should be?”

He was okay with that. He indicated 50 percent would give the store a right for an argument to stay open year-round, which means, basically, the store isn’t making anywhere near half of what it should be.

The only sense of humanization about this guy came when he talked about Kinston’s elderly mayor’s elderly wife, who called and basically pleaded with him to try to keep the store open. He said she was a sweet lady.

I think the city – at least those who are behind this outlet store – owes the mayor’s wife a debt of gratitude, for she clearly found the man’s “soft spot.” She is, if my gut instinct is correct, the reason for this man reconsidering closing this store.

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