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Employees scrambling to find work after Chuy's Tex-Mex closed its Country Club Plaza location

T'ähä Mexican Kitchen offering jobs to former employees
chuys on plaza closes.jpg
Posted at 8:13 PM, Jun 10, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Employees are hastily searching for work after the Country Club Plaza location of Chuy’s Tex-Mex closed over the weekend.

Kaden Weir was working a double shift at Chuy’s on Sunday when he learned the news.

“Walking in, and out of nowhere, being hit with four people sitting you down and having a talk like, talking about moving forward with the company kind of sucked,” Weir said.

Weir says he’d been working at this location for nearly a year, but his friend, Ian Kearney, had been working there for only two months.

“It was kind of like last minute, right before you go to work, you find out the worst news…you don’t have work to go to,” Kearney said.

Both he and Weir say they work with employees who have been working at Chuy’s for multiple years, including one who reached out to KSHB 41 but would like to remain unnamed. This employee stopped working at the Plaza location in 2022 but says this sudden closure isn’t new.

“This is not the first time they’ve closed a location without giving any notice,” they said. “In 2019, they did the same thing to Olathe employees, then I was affected by this in 2020 when they shut down the 135th location in Overland Park. I found out I didn’t have a job through Facebook.”

That’s the same way Weir and Kearney’s colleagues found out, but it’s also how they came across a prospective job opportunity.

Sunday night, KC Discover announced that a local Mexican restaurant located on in the West Plaza, T'ähä Mexican Kitchen, would be offering jobs to former Chuy’s employees looking for work.

“Being able to connect you to other people who are willing to hire you has shown me a lot about our community and how we all work together, and people do care,” Weir said after coming across the post.

Jose Gomez owns T'ähä along with his father, Fidel.

“T’'ähä means 'dream' in Otomi, which is an indigenous language from central Mexico,” Gomez said.

Although T'ähä has only been open for a few weeks, their family has been operating another restaurant, Little Hacienda, in Branson and Hollister, Missouri for the past 25 years.

“We wanted to come to Kansas City because we really wanted to come back to our roots and show people a different perspective of what Mexican food can be,” Gomez said.

With Chuy’s closing, T'ähä is one of the only Mexican restaurants located on the Plaza, and Gomez doesn’t take that lightly.

“We wanted to show, you know, the community that we can occupy these spaces,” he said. “These are kind of higher-end spaces that maybe don’t expect our community to be in.”

Now that they’re here, they’re looking to expand their staff of managers, servers, bartenders and more. It’s why they’re hoping to make bring about good from a devastating situation for Chuy’s employees who lost their jobs.

“As much as we know that that caused a lot of anxiety and maybe disappointment for their workers, it gives us another opportunity to elevate those people and, you know, elevate our whole team as a whole,” Gomez said.

A day after losing their jobs, Weir and Kearney have begun their job hunt.

“Seeing it all fall has been really stressful, like where am I going to get my car payment, when am I going to get my rent, when am I going to get this, and that’s a lot of what I hear from the older people ‘cause there were people there with kids that have their own families that they built around this job,” Weir said.

They’re both applying to T'ähä, and the idea of working for a family-owned business feels promising.

“I feel like, with a family-owned business, they’re gonna care about your well-being and let you know when these kind of things happen,” Weir said.

The idea of family was a crucial part of the work environment they said they had, which is why this news was so hard to accept.

“Everybody becomes a tight-knit community at work, especially in food service, and you’re not just destroying or messing up something for one person’s individual family, but this is also a work family that everyone creates a bond around,” Kearney said.

They say they wish they’d at least had a heads-up about their jobs and that communication and transparency go a long way.

“If you could view every employee as an important employee on a corporate scale, it would make it to where everybody feels more cared about, more in touch, which only improves performance from everybody who works there,” Kearney said.

It’s not the first time this year a national chain has closed on the Plaza and nation-wide, and with talk of new development on the horizon, they wonder if there’s an unfortunate trend occurring.

“There are a lot of vacant spots on the Plaza that used to be huge header stores, like Forever 21 or massive stores like that on the Plaza that have just left due to the increase in rent,” Kearney said.

Weir says employees were given vague reasoning in person as to why the store was closing, but that it had to do with ‘rent issues.’ KSHB 41 reached out multiple times to Chuy’s representatives for comment, but have yet to hear back.

In the days to come, Gomez, Weir and Kearney will be on the search for a new work family and the chance to live out their dreams.

“From day one, we’ve told all our employees while T'ähä might be our family’s dream, we really want this place to be a place where you can go after your own dream,” Gomez said.