HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One of the largest providers of school uniforms in the southern United States appears to have suddenly closed down, leaving thousands of families in the lurch.
"I feel like they have a monopoly on the uniform distribution," said Amberly Hall, a mother whose three children all attend St. Thomas' Episcopal School. "The fact they closed is really a shock, to be honest with you."
Like many Houston area private schools, St. Thomas' Episcopal School contracts with Parker Uniform to provide school specific uniforms. Parents buy the uniforms from local brick and mortar stores or order from the company's website.
As of Thursday morning, all Houston area stores and the website were shut down.
"This morning we heard it through the grapevine, social media that Parker was shut," said Mike Cusack, the Headmaster of St. Thomas' Episcopal. "We went to the website, it's shutdown. There's nothing there."
Parker's Bellaire and Memorial storefronts were also closed. At the door, signs posted said the locations were closed until further notice.
Parker is based in Houston, so Eyewitness News went to the Corporate Headquarters looking for answers. As we walked in, one employee scrambled into a nearby closet. Another person quickly walked toward our Eyewitness News crew, and literally pushed us out the door.
"I'm not authorized to talk to you," the man repeatedly told us as we tried to ask him about the future of the company and pending uniform orders.
He also stated that nobody would be able to call us back, before closing the door on us.
A number of private schools around the city have been sending emails to their parents. The schools say they are just beginning to become aware of the problem, but do not yet have answers.
Parker Uniforms have had problems in the past. Last summer, a number of families complained they couldn't get their uniform orders filled. In addition, local review sites such as The Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google are filled with complaints about the company.
"I felt kind of let down as a consumer," said Hall, who is also a teacher at St. Thomas' Episcopal. "It's something that's been in our community, it's where all the schools go to get their uniforms."
For now, area schools and parents do not have answers. It's unclear whether another supplier can be located for the remainder of the school year or if a number of schools will have to relax their dress codes.
FULL EMAIL SENT TO PARKER UNIFORMS EMPLOYEES:
"As you are aware, for the past several months, Parker has been actively seeking capital, financing, and refinancing through financial institutions and other companies. Parker believed that it would be successful in obtaining the necessary capital and that, if it had, it would have been able to avoid the closure of the business. Further, if Parker had provided earlier notice, it would have it undermined its efforts to obtain additional outside capital due to potential investors concerns about doing business with a troubled company or a company whose employees were looking for other jobs. Unfortunately, as of today, Parker has exhausted all reasonable avenues available to it without success.Accordingly, effective today, we are permanently shutting down all of our operations, including the entire corporate headquarters, and terminating all employees. A few employees in key positions may be asked to stay on to assist with winding-down the business; there are no bumping rights. We will reach out to such employees separately."