Minnesota-based Regency Beauty Institute closed its 79 locations across the country without warning on Wednesday, blindsiding thousands of students, including dozens at the chain's two locations in northeast Florida.
The company posted on its website that "the organization does not have the cash to continue to run the business," blaming a "declining number of cosmetology students" and an "inability to obtain continued financing."
Many students showed up Thursday at Regency Beauty's Orange Park facility and the facility in Jacksonville's Regency area to find a letter posted on the door saying the school was permanently closed.
Students expressed frustration Thursday after receiving a notification the night before that Regency Beauty Institute would no longer be in business.
"I received a text message stating that we would no longer have school here, that the schools would be permanently closing," said student Chyna Mosley. "It's affected a lot of people. But you know, these games, you don't play games with people's lives like this. And, you know, now they are back to square zero, basically, to start looking again."
Mosley, who attended classes at the Regency location, said the beauty school even started new students this week.
"Everything was going perfectly fine. I mean, we have been having tours come in every day, even interviewing for instructors and everything," Mosley said.
Catlin Brickey said she and her classmates at the Orange Park location also learned that Regency Beauty Institute was closing in a text message or voicemail. Brickey said the sudden announcement was a complete shock.
"Today, I was supposed to graduate," Brickey said. "I was immediately crushed and felt like everything I worked so hard for this past year has been ripped away from me."
No one from the company would talk to the students, referring them to an explanation on its website:
This is incredibly difficult news for everyone affected: especially our students, teachers, and staff. We recognize that some of you may be finding this out for the first time by reading this. We are truly sorry for the abrupt nature of this information.
"How did this happen? In short, the organization does not have the cash to continue to run the business. There are multiple intertwined reasons: declining numbers of cosmetology students nationwide, a negative characterization of for-profit education by regulators and politicians that continues to worsen and, in light of these factors, an inability to obtain continued financing.
"This is not another case of a school being forced to shut down because it was accused of wrongdoing. We held ourselves to high educational and ethical standards. The environment is simply not one that allows us to remain open. We diligently explored a range of strategic options that would benefit our students, teachers, and staff — and allow us to remain open. Unfortunately, those efforts were not successful."
Some of the students were upset about how the school handled the situation.
"I just feel like the school manager knew some sort of way that something was going to happen. They should have let us know," Brickey said.
Creasie Kelly had just been accepted into the program.
"I've only been here for three days. It hurts to get excited and prepared, to start my career, and someone comes up and takes it all from us," Kelly said.
She hopes to continue her education at another beauty school.
"(I want) to continue and keep pushing because it doesn't stop here," Kelly said.
Instructors from other local cosmetology schools showed up at Regency Beauty's Orange Park and Regency locations throughout the day to talk to the students.
"It's a big deal for me, the community, the students here, the faculty, the staff. I definitely feel for them. So I'm just here to reach out to students, see what we can do to help them," said Jason Craig, director of compliance and business operation for Jacksonville Beauty Institute.
Both students and instructors have a lot of unanswered questions about the beauty school closing, saying they are unsure if they will get any refunds.
Regency students can click here for information about transcripts and other education opportunities. The school said the campuses would be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday for student to retrieve any personal belongings.
A meeting at 10 a.m. Monday at American Academy of Cosmetology is open to all Regency students. It is located 1330 Blanding Blvd., Orange Park.