KNOXVILLE Tenn. -- A Knoxville small business closed its doors, prompting a wave of panic from customers claiming they paid for photographs they never received.
Little Nest Portraits in Knoxville is among at least 15 franchises that specialize in family photos. The Knoxville location closed May 31st.
One deal offered up by the photo studio was the Heirloom Membership where new parents pay for a year’s worth of pictures for their newborn. The price of the photo package was $79 per month with a $100 upfront fee.
Emily Deaton sprung for the photo package after the birth of her child last August. She said she doesn’t think the company is planning to hand out refunds. When she called to ask if she could get the images that were already taken of her child, she said she was told the studio no longer had access to the photos. Emily told WVLT News she never had a problem with the company before and was always been pleased with their work.
“We’re all sad we’ve lost a small business in Knoxville and we love their work. It’s a really huge loss for them but it is also a financial burden on us to find another photographer,”Deaton said.
In an email sent to customers, the Knoxville Little Nest location said they plan to hold two more events for those who paid upfront for the Heirloom membership. A manager said that former employees are offering the service without getting paid.
“Its what I’m doing now, I’m calling people to let them know they’re not just a number, that they mean something to us,”said Cynthia Pryor, the former studio manager.
“It was not our intention to mislead anyone or misrepresent what we have sold.”
She said it's not just customers losing out, she's and her colleagues are out of a job.
The franchiser released a statement on the Knoxville location's closing ,
"We are aware of the situation and have always held our franchisees to the highest cultural standard. As a franchise, each studio is independently owned and operated. The obligation on fulfilling the membership lies with the franchisee, and we are working with the owner to find a solution to these membership and session obligations.”
When you try reached out to the Little Next Knoxville location a voice mail played informing customers the franchise would be reaching out to them by phone or email in the next ten days:
If it has not yet reached you, then I am sad to bring you the news that Little Nest Knoxville has closed it’s doors. We have spent several days contacting every member by phone, but we felt we would reiterate the information exchanged in those phone calls and to reach out to those who had not yet been contacted.
Contacting you all personally is of great importance to us, as we do not want you to feel like a number. You have all become our family.
You are all entitled to a heartfelt apology that due to the Franchise Business closing, we must also. Without the support of our home base and the uncertainty of the Little Nest trademark and brand, we had no choice but to cease operations as of May 31st.
This is not a message that we are proud to deliver and we are asking for your support and understanding as we work to provide you with an option for receiving digital images for the remainder of your membership with us.
We are currently working on 2 events for our Heirloom Members. The first will be held in July or August and the second will be in November. We will be sending information via e-mail to all of our members, as we are working on a date and venue. These sessions will more than likely be held outdoors. We wanted you to offer the opportunity to have family pictures done in the Summer and during the Fall.
We have so enjoyed getting to know all of you and your families and we take great pride in the services we offered. We will do our very best to answer your questions, but we also ask for your grace and understanding, as we grieve along with you.
Thank you for allowing us to serve you all. The pain of this closure cannot be fully expressed and we understand how much this news will impact you.
Thank you for the memories and the beautiful moments.