Stuller Inc. shuts down Lafayette HQ amid governor’s ‘stay at home’ order

The gist: All 1,263 employees at Stuller Inc.’s global headquarters on Rue Louis XIV are being sent home today at 5 p.m. as a result of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “stay at home” order announced Sunday, according to founder Matt Stuller. Employees will continue to be paid and receive full benefits through April 12, the order’s expiration date.

Gov. Edwards issued the order to help stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus sweeping through the state.

Stuller tells me the privately held company, which he founded in 1970 and grew to become one of the largest in the Acadiana region, will re-evaluate the situation once the order expires. He emphasized he will do everything in his power to retain his talented staff.

Stuller says he was unsuccessful in his efforts to exempt his manufacturing operations from the order and made the decision today to close the office. 

Stuller hopes all of the community and state — New Orleans is a hot spot — is on board. “If everyone would behave and stay at home,” he says, the company may be able to resume some local operations within weeks. “If they don’t, all this is for naught.”

Stuller calls the order a “real killer,” explaining that it puts his jewelry manufacturing business at a disadvantage, as many of his competitors are still working. (Stuller said he would get back to me on the Lafayette facility’s annual payroll.)

“Ultimately, we believe temporarily suspending operations in our Lafayette facility is the right thing to do for our coworkers, our communities, and Louisiana,” Stuller later said in a statement. “We are committed to supporting our Stuller associates through this executive order by providing full pay and benefits to help alleviate undue hardship on each of them.”

As of noon today, 34 people in Louisiana have died from COVID-19 and 1,172 people have been diagnosed with the virus that causes it. There are nine people in Lafayette Parish who have tested positive, with 41 of 64 parishes reporting cases.

The worldwide spread of coronavirus is affecting all of the local company’s operations. Manufacturing in the Yucatan Peninsula, which is fed by Lafayette, will have only four or five more days of work, Stuller says. “It’s a domino effect.” 

Operations in Barcelona, Spain, and Bombay, India, shut down last week, but Stuller is hopeful the latter will reopen in 10 days. The situation in Thailand is changing each day, Stuller says, but his manager there is anticipating that office will have to close any day now. 

Stuller expects the company’s small operation in Canada to remain open, though he can’t even be sure that will happen.