Sunday night, CK Massage and Spa customers received a text message telling them the Lehi spa was out of business.

“Its with sadness we inform you that effective immediately, CK Massage + Spa is OUT OF BUSINESS,” the text message read.”We are very Sorry.”

Accompanying the closure is a sign posted to the spa’s front doors inside the business building at 3300 N. Running Creek Way Building H, which reads “sorry we’re out of business.” Angry customers have written notes, some of which are profane, and many of which leave personal phone numbers asking the owner to call them about reimbursement for payments made in advance. One enterprising massage therapist has used the opportunity to post her business cards to the door as of Thursday afternoon.

Longtime customer Erin Kenney Barnett already had appointments scheduled when she received the Sunday night text message. She said she was disappointed as she really loved CK Massage and Spa’s model, and she felt like it filled a “niche” in spa services that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

“Their estheticians handled a lot of services, so you really got to know them,” Barnett said. “I lost money ... but I am not nearly as upset about that as I am about the fact that so many good people who trusted the owners are suddenly out of a job, and that the community lost a great place.”

Barnett said she and her husband wondered if they could salvage the business somehow, and responded to the text message asking if the owner, Casey Kleinman, would be open to discussing the possibility of a buyout or another option. She got no response.

Customers received a follow up email Wednesday which attempted to explain events leading to the sudden closure.

“No business owner begins a business anticipating a sudden closure. CK Massage and Spa began with the best intentions and good faith,” the email reads. “The business grew quickly. To keep up with the demand, and in an effort to do things the right way the owner hired an accountant.”

That accountant, according to the email, used “questionable accounting methods and failed to pay proper business taxes,” which the owner didn’t discover until a few years later. The old accountant was fired and a new accountant hired — the email emphasizes the new accountant as “excellent” — and attempts to repair the damage done to the business were made.

“Part of this strategy was to sell services at a steep discount, all the while, trying to maintain appropriate wages for the employees,” the email reads. “It is common for a business to run at a deficit, using sales redeemable in the future to pay for current costs. The plan was to gradually increase the prices of the services to more a market-appropriate level to eventually to be able to clear the tax debts and run the business in the black.”

According to the email, Kleinman went without pay in order to pay his employees. The email states that as recently as last week, after an alleged attempt to raise prices, not enough customers were buying and the sales goals were not going to be met, leading Kleinman to close CK Massage and Spa’s doors.

“Unfortunately, this leaves some customers with credits that cannot be redeemed,” the email says. “The owner would refund the customers if he could, but the money simply isn’t there.”

To that end, Barnett said she doesn’t buy it.

“I started hearing rumors that they were in trouble and possibly closing back in May,” Barnett wrote on Facebook, and shared with the Daily Herald. “I asked one of the employees about it and she confirmed that their paychecks had bounced once, but claimed it was just an accounting error and was quickly corrected.”

As for rising prices, Barnett said CK Massage and Spa’s prices were comparable to anywhere else, with the only exceptions coming from buying massage packages in advance or through Groupons.

“They made them appear deeply discounted by listing non-member pricing that was nearly double member prices,” Barnett said. And after prices increased, CK Massage and Spa seemed to be doing well enough — Barnett said the spa was often booked out for weeks, driving her as a member to get pedicures done elsewhere because she simply couldn’t get an appointment.

Barnett also expressed the opinion that employees weren’t being paid fairly, although former employee Erin Hardy said differently. Beginning as a nail technician four years ago, and working as a manager over the last year, Hardy said Kleinman always paid his employees on time and in full.

Hardy did add that of 35 former employees, only five or so including herself were paid before the closure. In a message to employees using Slack, Kleinman told all of this former employees he would compensate them, although it make take 1-3 years. Hardy said some employees threatened to sue, and Kleinman essentially told them to go ahead and try, as he no longer owns any assets. According to Hardy, Kleinman, a father of three, stands to lose his home and his vehicles.

“I’ve never seen him so defeated and sad in my life,” she said.

Hardy said she knew Kleinman had taken a hard financial hit, although she didn’t realize how bad it was, despite some odd behavior like Kleinman taking sole ownership of inventory and not allowing managers to order more inventory or see business funds. However, she also said Kleinman in general worked hard to make CK Massage and Spa a great place to work, and the closure came as a complete surprise.

Court documents for bankruptcy have not been filed as of Thursday afternoon, although Hardy suggested that may be Kleinman’s plan. Kleinman did not respond to requests for comment.

“He gave his all. It’s a horrible thing to happen and we all just kind of got screwed over,” Hardy said. “He tried but, too little, too late.”

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

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