HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Across the country this summer, there were a lot of unhappy brides and bridesmaids after without warning, Alfred Angelo, one of the world’s largest makers and sellers of wedding dresses, abruptly closed and declared bankruptcy.
One of those unhappy brides is Alyson Willette.
Willette said when she thought about a wedding dress for her big day, Alfred Angelo in Short Pump was her first and only choice.
“I was just really excited to have something done for the wedding,” said Willette.
She ordered her dream dress with a veil and belt at the Short Pump location in March.
“I never thought that there would be a problem going there. I mean we had always driven by it when we would go out that way and always said I wanted to get my wedding dress there,” said Willette.
Three months after ordering the dress, everything changed.
“I got a text from one of my bridesmaids,” Willette recalled. “She said you need to go online. Something has happened with Alfred Angelo.”
To her surprise, Willette saw the shocking post. The South Florida based bridal chain suddenly closed, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
“I can’t even put into words like how disappointing it was,” said Willette.
Willette who currently lives in South Carolina contacted her dress consultant in Virginia, who told her not to worry.
“She called me Friday and she said ‘Ally I’m so sorry. I’ve showed up to work… the doors are locked,’” Willette recalled. “And she’s like…’I don’t have a job anymore.’”
Willette said the only thing she knew was that dresses in the store would be shipped to paid customers.
“You’re just floored. I mean it was disbelief. This company has been around since 1933,” she said.
A few weeks later, Willette got a text from Fed-Ex about a two day delivery from Alfred Angelo.
“It was a huge Alfred Angelo box. I open it up and my veil was in there, my belt, my preservation kit for my dress. There’s a big box in the biggest box. I run upstairs and cut it open and there are just layers and layers of cardboard where my dress was supposed to be,” said Willette. “It just felt like the cruelest joke in the world to be honest.”
Willette’s mom Linda Lewis called the store multiple times and started firing off emails to the Bankruptcy 7 Trustee before launching an investigation with her credit card company, in the hopes of getting her nearly $3,000 back.
“Shame on them,” said Lewis. “You just don’t do business this way and you don’t treat people this way.”
Those sentimental are also felt by Brooke Kappel, who actually considers herself lucky.
“I thought it was safer than going to a little mom and pop boutique. I just never… I was blindsided,” said Kappel.
The bride-to-be picked up her wedding gown months before the business folded.
Her Bridesmaids weren’t so fortunate.
“My heart stopped and I lost it, you know… because it’s all part of the wedding experience she said.
Kappel and her Bridesmaids had to shell out more money for her October wedding.
“I just think it’s terrible that somebody knew, in a higher up position, that they were in trouble and for them to continue to take money from all these brides, bridesmaids, flower girls… I just think it’s disgusting,” said Kappel.
“What do you do? How does this happen?” said Willette.
“It could be a situation where you have an asset case where there could possibly be some value determined from the business after liquidating all of its assets,” said Rudolph McCollum with McCollum at Law PC.
McCollum is a Richmond bankruptcy attorney.
He said in some Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, if there are no assets, creditors may not get a dime.
“It could be a situation where you have an asset case where there could possibly be some value determined from the business after liquidating all of its assets,” said McCollum.
McCollum said many major retailers are struggling to stay open.
“That’s why in operating any type of business, it’s important to always try to stay on the cutting edge. So, you can stay ahead of these types of problems,” he said.
He pointed out that management changes and online sales can impact a company’s future.
“As we look at retail across the board, we see that it is changing tremendously. The amount to internet purchases that are taking place have just recently been able to override the number of dollars being spent retail,” said McCollum.
So, what can customers do when a company goes under?
“Unfortunately, the persons who have placed funds in the company are in a difficult position,” said McCollum.
McCollum said customers should follow the bankruptcy process and determine if it’s worth hiring an attorney.
“Even though you have counsel that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that there are going to be any assets available to you when the ultimate distribution is going to be made at all. Nor would it guarantee, it would be efficient to cover the expense that you’ve incurred,” said McCollum.
McCollum said he can’t say if bridal customers will be reimbursed, but he advises shoppers in this situation to pay a portion of the cost with a credit card and keep all receipts.
“Ultimately, it’s extremely difficult to be able to tell. The business could be open one day and literally close the next,” said McCollum.
Recently, a bankruptcy court judge in West Palm Beach, Florida approved auctioning off hundreds of thousands of dollars in sample wedding dresses and other inventory on September 2 at Alfred Angelo's warehouse in Deerfield Beach.
A court appointed trustee sought to auction off this merchandise to limit administrative expenses as part of the company's chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
You can contact the bankruptcy court in South Florida at 561-514-4100.
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