CRESTVIEW — The sudden closure of Ryan’s Steakhouse meant more than finding a new place to eat for Crestview residents. About 50 people found themselves without a job and no notice, according to Brandon Sanchez. 

Sanchez, one of those people, was employed for 15 years with Ryan’s before the restaurant closed March 26.

“It was heartbreaking for most of us because it was our way of life, our way of providing for our families,” Sanchez said.  “I know I will be able to find another job eventually, but I feel bad for some of my older co-workers who will have a harder time trying to find something new.”

Sanchez said “corporate people” assured him that talk of the restaurant shutting down was just rumored. He first heard whispers of a closure about two months ago but said others heard them earlier than that.

Comments were made over one year ago on the News Bulletin’s social media accounts about Chick-fil-A taking over the location. Some people say those rumors have been going around even longer.

The company maintained its position of remaining open until the final weekend of operation. Employees learned of the closure March 25 — one day before its last in service — according to Sanchez.

Several other people made similar claims on the News Bulletin’s Facebook page and via Twitter but declined to be interviewed for this story.

“A lot of us feel betrayed by the company,” Sanchez said. “We all worked hard, every day for them, to be done this way.”

The Ryan’s closure also affected longtime customers of the establishment, like Brandon Brooks and his family. Brooks, along with his wife and four children, have been patrons of the Crestview Ryan’s for several years.

“To say I'm gonna miss the place would be an understatement,” Brooks said. “My 2-year-old twins say ‘Ryan's’ every time we ride by there — wanting to go in there and eat. How do we explain to 2-year-old twins that we can't go there anymore?”

The company did not respond to questions about how long they had planned to close their Crestview location. Instead, a spokesperson referenced an already distributed press release that said the closure was “a business decision” that did not reflect the staff or management.

Several restaurants were interested in the site leading up to the Ryan’s closure, according to Retail Strategies Retail Development Director Joe Strauss during a presentation to the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Chick-fil-A has since secured the property and is planning a rebuild for the location at 3000 S. Ferdon Blvd.