Two years after returning to local ownership, a 31-year-old direct mail and printing company has apparently ceased operations.
Employees of Henrico-based Colortree Group arrived at work Monday to find the doors of the company’s headquarters locked. Some who were gathered in the company’s otherwise empty parking lot at 8000 Villa Park Drive said they received no notice of the move.
“They didn’t tell us anything,” said Voeurn Long, a press assistant who said he had worked at Colortree two years. “I came to work expecting to work, but I didn’t realize they’d just close.”
Raymond Sprouse, a pressman at Colortree just over two years, said an email went out Monday morning with a number for employees to dial to listen in on a call. He said the call conveyed that the company no longer was financially capable of keeping its workers employed.
Sprouse said the company had told employees awhile back that it was having financial difficulties.
“We didn’t know it was this bad,” he said.
Front doors to Colortree’s administrative offices and a restricted area were locked as of 3 p.m. Sprouse said the call was held a few hours earlier.
On the opposite side of the building, a few tractor-trailers were parked or in position to be loaded. A driver said he had just pulled up and found out that the building was closed.
“I just feel bad for everybody there who now doesn’t have a job. They had a couple hundred people working there,” he said.
Attempts to reach Colortree for comment were unsuccessful. No one answered a call to the company’s main number. A call to CEO James “Pat” Patterson was not returned, and an email prompted an auto-reply stating he was out of the office with limited access.
Patterson took on full ownership of Colortree in late 2016, when he purchased the majority stake in the company previously held by Boathouse Capital, a Pennsylvania-based investment firm.
Boathouse had acquired its stake in 2011, taking majority ownership of the former Colortree Inc. and its printing spinoff Graphics Innovations, which acquired local company Printegration in 2010.
Patterson’s Stingem Management Group had owned half of Graphics Innovations and ended up with 28 percent ownership of Colortree Group. In an interview following his 2016 purchase, Patterson told BizSense he had wanted to buy the company since the 2011 sale, which came about with the departure of Colortree’s two remaining founders.
Colortree employed 235 people the year leading up to Patterson’s purchase. The company’s current staff count couldn’t be verified Monday, though one employee put the number at about 250. Its LinkedIn page lists between 201 and 500 employees.
Founded in 1998 as Colortree Inc., Colortree Group produces and mails fliers, postcards, envelopes and other products. Under Patterson’s direction, the company nearly doubled in size over a five-year span through acquisitions and organic growth.
The company’s revenues had reached $60 million around the time of Patterson’s purchase in late 2016. Patterson said at the time he expected the deal to increase sales the following year by $2 million to $8 million, and he said more acquisitions would be in the company’s future.
The business is housed in a 142,000-square-foot industrial building on a 12.8-acre site next door to the Brown Distributing Co. facility.
Standing outside the front doors along with a few others Monday, Sprouse and Long said they didn’t know what would happen next, and questioned how and when they could get new insurance plans. They said employees with insurance through Colortree had lost their coverage as of Monday.
“Usually (employers) give two months ahead of time, give us a chance to plan our next job, but this one keeps us in the dark,” Long said. “We expect them to give us some info so we can plan ahead of time. A lot of people are going to have a difficult time getting insurance again.”
The events come one month after another locally based company shut its doors unexpectedly. In early May, Southside-based Live Well Financial began shutting down operations after filing a notice with the Virginia Employment Commission the same day it notified its employees.