MOUNT PLEASANT — An Illinois developer now owns the enormous building that housed the former Promotions Unlimited, the company that crumbled a year ago, costing 77 people their jobs.
The story went beyond a company closure because of the way the employees were mistreated in the process of losing their jobs, and afterward.
On Jan. 27, 2017, Promotions Unlimited, 7601 Durand Ave., discharged its last 48 employees after laying off about 30 others in the preceding several weeks. Employees said the family-owned company, which was a local distributor to independent pharmacies, did not pay them for their last week of work, nor for earned but unused vacation time.
There was also an attempt to take back the last paychecks that employees did receive, via reversals of direct deposits, an action that sent ex-employees scrambling to hold onto their money.
In the end, in response to complaints ex-employees had filed with the state, in May 2017 the State of Wisconsin ordered Promotions Unlimited owners Ira and Lorraine Greenberg to pay a total of $203,933 to those people or face action by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
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About the same time as that order was made, the Greenbergs, on May 15, filed a Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy in Illinois. On those papers they stated they had assets of between $500,000 and $1 million, and liabilities of $1 million to $10 million. Among the dozens of creditors they owed money was the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Because of that bankruptcy, the former employees received just 10 cents on the dollar of what the Greenbergs had owed them. A Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman said Wednesday that “the Greenbergs paid nothing. Promotions Unlimited’s secured creditor honored the priority wage claims of the former workers by paying the net amount of the liquidation of the company’s personal property or $20,595.”
Michelle Humburg, who had been the sales and customer service lead at Promotions Unlimited, said her share of that money was a check for $185 — far less than she was owed for her last week of work and three unused vacation weeks.
Looking back, Humburg said, “I feel like (losing that job) was a blessing in disguise — for myself at least. It was still offensive, and it was still not the right way to treat people.”
It was from the Greenbergs’ bankruptcy case, and bank foreclosure on the former company building, that Rosemont, Ill., developer Venture One Real Estate bought the structure for about $9.6 million.
The former Promotions Unlimited building is now being marketed. Commercial broker Mike Prost of Newmark Knight Frank maintains that, at 350,274 square feet, it is the largest industrial building available in the county. The firm is emphasizing the building’s proximity to the planned Foxconn Technology Group campus about 2½ miles to the west.
Venture One partner Matt Goode said Wednesday the company, which took title to the building earlier this month, will be investing a “significant” amount of money in it, work that is imminent. The work will include a new roof over the entire building, upgrading the docks and doors, demolishing some interior office walls to create a white box, painting and carpeting, redoing the parking lot, and demolishing about 40,000 square feet of office and showroom space.
Goode said Venture One will be able to price the space at a discount to new building, but offer like-new space. The asking lease rate is $3.75 per square foot, net.
He said the building will be most appropriate for either one or two tenants. “One or two would be ideal,” he said. Venture One can make it available for occupancy by April 1 or even in March if necessary, he added.
“Hopefully,” Goode said, “there will be a happy ending for Racine: a new company and new jobs.”
Reporter Sari Lesk contributed to this report.
“Hopefully, there will be a happy ending for Racine: a new company and new jobs.”
Matt Goode, Venture One Real Estate partner