BARBOURSVILLE — Employees of Hobby Lobby in Barboursville were sent home Thursday after a West Virginia State Police trooper visited the store manager to discuss Gov. Jim Justice’s “essential business” list.
Now, all Hobby Lobby stores across the country are closing.
After fielding questions about the store’s status as an essential business Thursday, a trooper visited the store, said Lawrence Messina, communication specialist for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. After the conversation, the manager decided to close the store.
In a statement on its website, Hobby Lobby announced all of its U.S. stores would be closed as of 8 p.m. Friday. The majority of employees will be furloughed, but the company will continue to pay medical, dental, life and long-term disability benefits for employees while furloughed through at least May 1, as well as pay the cost of employee premiums for these benefits on behalf of employees while furloughed without pay.
“We know our customers relied on us to provide essential products, including materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, educational supplies for the countless parents who are now educating their children from home, and the thousands of small arts and crafts businesses who rely on us for supplies to make their products,” the company statement reads. “Over the past several weeks, we implemented several best practices to provide a safer shopping environment, including the installation of physical barriers between customers and cashiers, enhanced cleaning and the enforcement of social distancing measures. We are prepared to reopen our stores in a responsible way when the current situation improves, and look forward to welcoming our valued customers back to our stores.”
Hobby Lobby had come under fire in West Virginia and Ohio for keeping stores open amid pandemic stay-at-home orders.
The craft company closed all 19 Ohio stores Wednesday after Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hobby Lobby, which had reopened its doors after closing when Gov. Mike DeWine first issued the stay-at-home order that closed nonessential businesses.
Justice mentioned the company in his daily news briefing Friday, saying he was prepared to alter the essential business list if business owners could not operate under the “honor system” the state is using now.
There are seven Hobby Lobby stores in West Virginia, according to the company’s website.