J C Rook & Sons shops are closed today (March 14) with staff saying they have been called to tell them the firm has gone into administration.
Shops in Broadstairs and Ramsgate and the factory site in Ramsgate are among those where staff are now facing redundancy.
Dean Spinks, who manages the team at the Broadstairs store, said six people including himself are being made redundant from that site.
He said: “J C Rook & Sons went into administration last night. I got a phone call at 8pm last night that we cannot open today or in the future.
“I am absolutely heartbroken not just for myself but my fantastic team I had working for me and also for the town of Broadstairs
“In the nearly 5 years I’ve been back at the shop we as a team have turned it around and moved it forward.”
Dean thanked the town for the support over the years.
Another employee working in Ramsgate said they were told at 6.30pm last night with others not finding out until they turned up for work this morning.
J C Rook and Sons has been trading in Kent for well over half a century.
The company operated 11 shops in East and Mid Kent with a production and distribution facility in Ramsgate. The company website says the firm employs more than 130 staff.
The Rook family has had a connection with the meat trade since the 18th century, originating in and around Norfolk. Joseph Christmas Rook, a butcher since leaving school (except during the war when he joined the RAF), opened the first J C Rook and Sons in Dover, with two of his sons, Michael and Roger, in 1965.
John and Peter at the same time opened a manufacturing factory in Sandwich, designed to supply chip shops with pies and sausages. Due to the overwhelming success of this operation, and the opening of shops in Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Deal, Joseph Christmas Rook, Michael, Roger, John and Peter decided to join together. In 1968 the youngest son Joe, on his 21st birthday, was welcomed into the partnership. Over the next few years the company slowly expanded, branching out right across Kent.
In 2019 a decision was taken to put four stores on the market. At the end of last year Andrew Rook resigned as director. The current directors are James Murray and Adrian Burr. Mr Burr is also a director for Southover Foods in Sussex which is still trading.
J C Rooks head office declined to comment.