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Thursday, March 24, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Manager who never quit sees Quiznos store shut

Seattle Times business reporter

The Quiznos Sub Shop abandoned by its owners and kept alive by some scrappy employees, shut down Tuesday, leaving the staff and enterprising manager Dawna Lentz to find work elsewhere.

A Quiznos spokeswoman said the closure was temporary and the company would help place the store's seven employees in other franchises. She added that Lentz, who gained national attention for keeping the shop running as supplies and co-workers dwindled, could manage another Quiznos store until the North Seattle shop reopens, a date still undetermined.

But Lentz was discouraged by the turn of events.

"They closed my store," she said yesterday.

Lentz spent Tuesday afternoon apologizing to her employees, with whom she'd developed a bond during the lean weeks this winter when they worked long hours without full pay.

"I'm sorry for making you stay here," she told them.

Nonetheless, they stayed until 8 that night to close.

"It was the most emotional thing," Lentz said. "I just hired one person. Sunday was her first day and yesterday was her last day."

Lentz, 25, managed the store on Holman Road Northwest since it opened in September. A month later, one of the original franchise partners took off, leaving absentee owner Harinderbir Singh in charge.

Singh checked in on the store occasionally, but stopped putting money into it and eventually ceased contact with Lentz and the other employees, Lentz said.

Left on her own, Lentz kept the place running through improvisation.

She paid employees what she could out of the daily till. She bought lunch meat at the grocery store when vendors would no longer deliver on credit. And she bought bread from other Quiznos stores, rationing the loaves so that the dinner crew would have enough for their shift.

She said she called Quiznos' corporate offices for help, but the company said it could not interfere with its franchises, which are run as independent businesses.

When the media picked up on the story in February, Quiznos took over operations of the store temporarily, replenishing supplies and paying employees back wages.

The company also flew Lentz to Denver to meet with the company president and to go through formal management training.

Even with Quiznos providing food for the Holman Road store, Lentz was still operating on a shoestring.

With the old owner out of the picture and a new one not yet in place, she continued to pay rent and wages out of the till.

Quiznos had a new owner lined up in February, but that deal fell through, spokeswoman Stacie Lange said. The company is negotiating with another prospect, who reportedly wants to hire Lentz when the store reopens.

But Lentz, exhausted and disappointed, isn't sure when the store will reopen, or what she'll do when it does.

"If there's any time in my life I feel like crap, it's right now."

Shirleen Holt: 206-464-8316 or sholt@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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