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Employees at Marie Callender's restaurants in West Valley City and Midvale got the bad news unexpectedly and quickly.

On Sunday — the day before the restaurant owner filed for bankruptcy protection — managers announced to employees the two stores would close at 4 p.m. — and for good.

"It was sad and rather heartless to tell employees this way," said Dawn Ebner, who had worked for the West Valley City restaurant for more than 25 years.

Ebner says she was spared the worry of the store's sudden closing. Two months earlier, she had quit to retire with her husband and now lives in Arizona.

But "we were like family at the restaurant," she said. "I still have many friends from all the years I worked there."

Perkins & Marie Callender's Inc., which owns Marie Callender's and Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing rising food costs and the languishing economy.

Marie Callender's eateries in Salt Lake City and Layton remain open, as does a Perkins Restaurant in Salt Lake City. The Bountiful Marie Callender's closed last month.

Documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware indicate that the Tennessee-based Perkins plans to shutter as many as 65 stores and cut 2,500 jobs, or about 20 percent of its workforce of 12,350. The first round of closings targeted 58 stores.

"It is a difficult decision to close a restaurant, let alone several restaurants and 58 restaurants nationally," said Perkins' spokeswoman Vivian Brooks. "We are grateful to the employees who supported theses stores for many years and the guests who patronized us."

Perkins has assets of $290 million and liabilities of $440.8 million, according to court documents. Top creditors were listed as The Bank of New York Mellon Trust and law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

The company was formed in 2006 after the private equity firm Castle Harlan Inc. combined Perkins Restaurants, founded in 1958, and Marie Callender's, which has been in business since 1948.

Shortly before the filing, Perkins owned and operated 85 Marie Callender's restaurants in nine states and had 37 franchise locations in the United States and Canada. It also operated 160 Perkins restaurants in 13 states and had 315 franchise-operated locations in 31 states and Canada.

Twitter@DawnHouseTrib —

Utah restaurants in bankruptcy protection

Salt Lake City • Marie Callender's, 1109 E. 3900 South

Layton • Marie Calender's, 1600 N. 1000 West

Salt Lake City • Perkins Restaurant, 230 Admiral Byrd Road (5480 West)

Shuttered restaurants

Midvale • Marie Callender's, 963 E. Fort Union Blvd.

West Valley City • Marie Callender's, 2882 W. 4700 South

Bountiful • Marie Callender's, 406 S. Main St. (Closed last month.)

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