Photo studios, including Jasper store, abruptly close

By The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Portrait studio operator CPI Corp. abruptly shut down its U.S. operations last week.

The company, which operated about 2,700 portrait studios inside of Sears and Walmart, including the store in Jasper, had been struggling to stay afloat after defaulting with its lenders. Its fourth forbearance agreement with lenders expired Saturday.

Employees reported being notified late Wednesday and Thursday that the stores would close at the week.

In a letter being circulated among employees, Jim Abel, the company’s CEO, says the “decline of our business proved too great an obstacle to overcome.”

“The Canadian business, which has not suffered from the same difficulty as the US, has continued to deliver strong financial performance,” the letter says. “The Canadian operations will continue as a standalone company until it is sold to another party.”

CPI Corp., which did not respond to numerous requests for information in recent months, updated its website to say that anyone who had a recent session and has not yet received the photos should contact the customer service department at the local store.

The website for PictureMe Portrait Studios, which were inside Walmart stores, directs customers to order products through

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