The employees of Quince Grill and Cantina in Cottonwood said their boss left them without jobs and without their paychecks when he vanished last month.
"We were one of the most popular restaurants in town," said Gunnar Hess, who was the general manager of Quince. Hess said even in the restaurant's heyday, owner Vladimir Costa wasn't always the best with money.
"I would say I probably had eight to 10 bounced checks," Hess said.
But he said not one of their 25 employees could have expected what happened at the end of last month.
"Nobody even received a check this last time, he left before payday," Hess said.
Hess, who said he's owed $4,200, said they ran out of food and had to close up early on a Saturday. When the time came to reopen on Tuesday, Costa never showed up.
Chef Robert Heins said Costa owes him nearly $5,000 and the rest of the staff is also missing three to five weeks of pay.
"Everybody back there, they have mortgages, they have bills," Heins said.
Costa's numbers have been disconnected and his landlord said he was a month behind in rent. Someone created a "Where's Vlad?" Facebook page, and now the community is stepping up to help.
"It's a small community and I think if something like this happens, we all need to band together and come together and help each other out," said Rebecca Riffel, co-owner of Main Stage, a concert venue in Cottonwood. They, along with several other local businesses, are organizing a fundraiser at the end of the month for the employees.
Hess, meanwhile, who is one of the few employees who's found another job, said he wants Costa to know while others are cleaning up his mess, the damage is done.
"I'd want him to know how bad of a spot he left everybody in, with family and kids and no money, obviously no jobs," Hess said.
We have not been able to reach Costa. If you would like to help any of the Quince employees, they have an account at Wells Fargo:
15 Employee Assistance Fund
P.O. Box 2073
Cottonwood, AZ 86326
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