Popular Westport pizza shop suddenly closes, leaving customers disappointed and employees without work

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A popular Westport pizza shop has suddenly closed its doors – leaving customers hungry and employees without jobs.

Imo's Pizza, known for its St. Louis-style slices, shut down on Mill Street Tuesday evening without any explanation posted on the door as to why.

When you call the business’ number, a voicemail simply says, “Thank you for calling Imo’s. Unfortunately, we are temporarily closed. Please check back for further updates.”

It was a disappointing sight for one St. Louis native named Kenneth Doss, who was craving a piece of home Friday night.

“Man, that`s a bummer,” said Doss, who has been a loyal customer at the Westport location for the past two years. “I mean, a lot of people frequent this restaurant. I don`t know.”

The sudden shut down that happened Tuesday has been baffling customers ever since. However, several employees told FOX 4 they weren’t surprised.

“It is disappointing and we’ve been disappointed for a very long time,” said Autumn, who has been serving as the shop’s general manager since January.

“We shut down because there`s no way we could of provided the product and experience that they were looking for under the conditions that we were working in,” she explained.

Autumn said on Tuesday, paychecks to two employees bounced, and she learned there wasn't enough money in the company's account to pay for an upcoming food shipment.

She said the situation left them without key ingredients to fill orders and forced them to close the doors.

“Of course it`s frustrating,” Autumn said, “and perhaps you might feel anger, but mostly I just feel really sad.”

“It’s disappointing because the business isn’t doing poorly because of lack of work ethic and it’s not doing poorly because the product is bad. It’s not doing poorly because money isn’t coming in. There are other factors at play.”

When pressed on what those “other factors” might be, Autumn claimed to have an extensive knowledge of the shop’s finances and said the owner, Michael Bayless, has been mismanaging money for sometime.

“I knew there wasn’t enough money in the account to cover the payroll checks on Friday,” she said.

“Perhaps on Monday there would’ve been enough after our credit card deposits had come through, but actually when the checks went out there wasn’t enough money in the business account to cover them.”

When FOX 4 asked if Bayless knew about this, she said, “If I knew that, I’m pretty sure he knew that. I think whether it’s a business or anything, to knowingly write checks that you know are going to bounce is not okay.”

Autumn said she became aware of the financial shortfalls back in July, and claims Bayless is now behind in payments to vendors for the Imo's franchise by about $40,000.

So FOX 4 went to talk with Bayless at his home in Silver Lake, Kan., to get his side of the story.

“Do you know when the shop might reopen?” FOX 4 asked.

“No, not right now, we don`t know,” Bayless responded.

“As far as the mismanagement of money, do you want to comment on that?” FOX 4 asked.

“No, that`s not accurate,” Bayless said. “But anyway, we can`t comment on it.”

When we asked Bayless about the paychecks bouncing, he called it a “misunderstanding” and blamed it on the bank.

Still, a lot of questions were left unanswered – leaving customers crossing their fingers the Westport shop doesn't close for good.

“I guess I will have to wait until I visit home again,” Doss said. “But I will be disappointed.”

Although each Imo’s Pizza shop is individually owned and operated, FOX 4 also called the corporate office at Imo's in St. Louis for comment.

However, we were told the person we needed to speak with had already left for the weekend and we would have to call back on Monday.