Brides-to-be await word on fate of wed­ding gowns

Al­fred An­gelo cus­tomers fran­tic af­ter store closes

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - MONEY - By Ar­lene Satchell Staff writer

They thought they had found the per­fect wed­ding dress.

But those vi­sions turned into night­mares for thou­sands of brides-to-be who are now try­ing to learn the fate of the wed­ding gowns they pur­chased from bridal re­tailer Al­fred An­gelo, which abruptly closed its stores Fri­day and filed to liq­ui­date its busi­ness un­der Chap­ter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

On Mon­day, the main av­enue avail­able to cus­tomers for in­for­ma­tion was an email ad­dress posted with an apol­ogy note on the re­tailer’s web­site.

“If you wish to be con­tacted re­gard­ing your or­der sta­tus once in­for­ma­tion is avail­able please send an email to: al­fredan­gelo@mjstrustee.com,” the com­pany said on its web­site. “We will post ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the sta­tus of dresses on this web-site as it be­comes avail­able. We apol­o­gize for the in­con­ve­nience and hard­ship re­sult­ing from this event. We ap­pre­ci­ate your pa­tience. Thank you.”

In South Florida, Al­fred An­gelo op­er­ated lo­ca­tions in Boyn­ton Beach, Sun­rise and Coral Gables. Na­tion­wide, the re­tailer op­er­ated at least 60 stores and main­tained oper­a­tions in Canada, Europe and Ja­pan.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court ap­pointed Mar­garet J. Smith of West Palm Beach to man­age the es­tate. Ef­forts to reach her by phone and email Mon­day were not suc­cess­ful.

In an in­ter­view with the Sun Sen­tinel last Fri­day, the com­pany’s Mi­ami-based bankruptcy at­tor­ney Pa­tri­cia Red­mond of the law firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Al­had­eff & Sit­ter­son, said she planned to ask the trustee to re­lease dresses that were in store await­ing pick-up. She also said she would try to per­suade the trustee to re­lease a $1.2 mil­lion ship­ment com­ing from China so that af­fected cus­tomers could get their or­dered dresses.

Red­mond also could not be reached early Mon­day for an up­date on the gown-re­trieval process. Late Fri­day, she said her law firm email ad­dress had been del­uged with in­quiries from more than 7,000 peo­ple.

“Now we’re just wait­ing for a re­sponse,” Pem­broke Pines res­i­dent Stephany Al­varez said Mon­day. She sent emails Satur­day to Al­fred An­gelo and to Red­mond in­quir­ing about a $300 mother-in-law dress or­dered from the Coral Gables store.

Al­though Al­varez’s wed­ding isn’t un­til Feb. 17, the store’s sud­den clo­sure and the un­cer­tain fate of the dress, has left her mother-in­law “up­set and dis­ap­pointed,” she said.

“When you fall in love with a dress, find­ing an­other one is dif­fi­cult. It’s just not the same,” Al­varez said.

Find­ing the money for a re­place­ment dress would also be an ex­tra

“When you fall in love with a dress, find­ing an­other one is dif­fi­cult.” Stephany Al­varez, Pem­broke Pines

bur­den on her mother-in­law, she said.

One cus­tomer, now scram­bling to find a new dress, was at least for­tu­nate to have re­ceived re­funds of her deposit.

Erin Jones, of Al­ta­monte Springs, had con­tacted Al­fred An­gelo as soon as she heard Fri­day the bridal shop was clos­ing stores na­tion­wide. But since she only paid a deposit, $500 of the $766 to­tal cost, she was told she would not get the dress or her money back, she said.

How­ever, she was is­sued a credit over the week­end by her credit card com­pany.

“I was in love with that dress,” lamented Jones. “I kept en­vi­sion­ing walk­ing down the aisle in that dress.”

On Fri­day she planned to be­gin the hunt again for a new dress at David’s Bridal ahead of her Novem­ber wed­ding.

“Just hop­ing I find some­thing that doesn’t take too long to come in,” she said.

A cred­i­tors meet­ing is set for 1 p.m. Aug. 28 at 1515 N. Fla­gler Drive, Room 870, in West Palm Beach, ac­cord­ing to bankruptcy court pa­pers. All proofs of claims against Al­fred An­gelo must be submitted by Nov. 27.

In the in­terim, other bridal re­tail­ers have been step­ping up with dis­counts for the af­fected Al­fred An­gelo cus­tomers.

David’s Bridal and Camille La Vie, which both have stores in South Florida, are of­fer­ing dis­counts rang­ing from 15 to 30 per­cent off se­lect new pur­chases with the pre­sen­ta­tion of orig­i­nal re­ceipts from Al­fred An­gelo.

“They are trick­ling in and we’re see­ing about one to two [Al­fred An­gelo] cus­tomers a day, mostly brides­maids,” said Yolanda Tor­ri­cella, sales man­ager at the David’s Bridal shop in Sun­rise. “It’s not a big amount, but peo­ple are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the dis­count.”

On Fri­day, David’s Bridal tweeted it was of­fer­ing 30 per­cent dis­counts on re­place­ment wed­ding gowns to af­fected cus­tomers with an Al­fred An­gelo re­ceipt and 20 per­cent dis­counts for brides­maid dresses. It also said it is waiv­ing rush fees on al­ter­ations for those with wed­ding dates around the cor­ner.

At the Camille La Vie store at Saw­grass Mills mall, the re­tailer was of­fer­ing 15 per­cent dis­counts for brides or brides­maids who pre­sented re­ceipts from Al­fred An­gelo, said Catalina Eck­ert, an as­sis­tant man­ager.

TAIMY AL­VAREZ/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Al­fred An­gelo Bridal store filed to liq­ui­date its oper­a­tions in bankruptcy court in West Palm Beach on Fri­day.

TAIMY AL­VAREZ/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Last week’s shut­down left brides-to-be across the coun­try locked out and with lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about their time-sen­si­tive wed­ding pur­chases.

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