The Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries restaurant in Marion is closed until further notice as are the Hwy 55 spots in Morganton and Gastonia. The one in Conover remains open but that could change, said Jay Thomas, owner of the franchises for all four locations.

The Hwy 55 at Marion’s Grandview Station shopping center states: “This location is closed until further notice. We appreciate your support and patronage over the years.” Similar signs have been posted at the others with Thomas as the franchise owner.

Thomas said Monday to The McDowell News he had to close these restaurants because they struggled financially due to theft by employees.

“We’ve struggled with employee theft,” he said. “We’ve struggled financially for a long period of time.”

Thomas said he owns the franchises for the Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries restaurants in Marion, Morganton, Conover and Gastonia. He said some of the workers were stealing from the restaurants at all four locations at one time or another.

“In Morganton, it’s almost impossible to hire someone who’s not going to steal from you,” he said to The McDowell News.

This caused serious problems for him when it came time to pay the bills and the landlords for these locations, he added.

Thomas said there were missing deposits for both the Marion and Conover locations.

“The cash is always short,” he added.

The final straw happened when he could not pay U.S. Foods, the distributor for the food at his restaurants.

As a result, Thomas said Monday he had to close the three restaurants and the one in Conover could close soon as well. A total of 70 employees are affected. The Marion location had around 18 employees.

The McDowell News asked Thomas if these restaurants could reopen in the future.

“I can’t answer that question,” he said. “At this point, it is an unknown.”

Even though he’s blamed this on employee theft, Thomas said many of his workers were good and honest.

“I had many, many great employees, especially at the one in Marion,” he told The McDowell News. “Not only are our employees suffering but our customers are suffering too.”

On Thursday morning, The McDowell News attempted to reach out to the Hwy 55 in Conover. Employees there declined to comment on whether their restaurant would be closing.

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