Penguin Windows to shutter operations

Vancouver site shut down, with 60 to 70 laid off

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Penguin Windows, the residential window replacement company whose operations include an office in Vancouver, will shut down by the end of October, its president said Tuesday.

Donnie McMillan said Penguin will operate through Oct. 31 and will honor all of its outstanding contracts with customers. “All contracts are going to be fulfilled,” he said. “Every client is going to get their product.”

News that Penguin will shutter its operation came after the state Employment Security Department said in February the company had laid off 160 workers in Mukilteo, Lynnwood and Lakewood, would lay off 50 more by March 14 and that it would lay off 156 workers in Vancouver sometime later.

McMillan said Penguin stopped doing business in Vancouver more than two months ago. Asked what prompted the company to shut down, McMillan said there were “lots of reasons” but declined to elaborate.

Rick Van Cise, a communications manager for the state Employment Security Department, said Tuesday the department didn’t have any new information about Penguin, beyond what it reported in February.

A former Penguin employee told The Columbian on Tuesday that the company laid off roughly 60 to 70 people in Vancouver on June 10. “They have shut down completely the Vancouver operation,” the former Penguin employee said. “The only thing they’re doing currently is installing the rest of the windows that they sold.”

In March 2010, Mukilteo-based Penguin reached a settlement with the Washington Attorney General’s Office over a complaint the state’s chief legal office made against it.

That complaint alleged the company misrepresented its products, making false claims about the energy savings customers would achieve and misleading consumers into thinking that the in-home appointments they set up with Penguin were something other than sales calls.

Penguin denied any wrongdoing as part of the settlement filed in King County Superior Court but agreed to restrictions on its marketing tactics, according to a news release issued by the Attorney General’s Office.

The company agreed to several terms, including a prohibition on making misrepresentations to gain entry into a home, a requirement that it substantiate advertising claims and a rule barring Penguin from continuing in-home sales presentations after a customer has clearly stated that he or she wants the presentation to end.

The Attorney General’s Office agreed to suspend $25,000 in civil penalties as long as Penguin followed consumer protection laws in the future. The company paid $95,000 in attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

In February, Penguin Windows’ website, which now says it’s “currently under renovation,” said the company had operations in Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Information on the company’s website in February said that Qualified Remodeler Magazine in August 2010 listed Penguin as the sixth-largest remodeling company in the nation as ranked by revenue.

At that time, the company’s website also said Penguin had been named to Remodeling Magazine’s Big 50 list in 2008 in recognition of the company’s professionalism and integrity.

On Feb. 25, Penguin Windows filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal bankruptcy court in Seattle. That court process is still under way. Penguin is legally incorporated as Statewide Inc.