Abrupt close of bridal supplier impacts New Hampshire town
By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING
Jul. 17, 2017
WEST LEBANON, N.H. (AP) — The abrupt closing of a national bridal supplier has a local bridal retailer scrambling to make good on pending orders for bridesmaid dresses and other bridal accessories for a handful of upcoming Upper Valley weddings.
CJ Bailey, manager of Everything Bridal on Route 12A in West Lebanon, said the store was given no formal notice that one of its two main suppliers, Alfred Angelo, had closed its doors, apparently for good, on Thursday night.
"We don't have answers right now," Bailey said on Saturday morning, while factions of wedding parties roamed the small shop to try on tuxedos and pick up dresses. "That's the worst part."
Bailey said she only learned that Alfred Angelo had pink-slipped masses of employees from its corporate Delray Beach, Fla., office when the Everything Bridal owners, Nathan and Aimee Ross, sent her a Facebook posting from another store describing what had happened.
"I thought it was a joke," Bailey said. "I literally didn't believe it."
Bailey said her store has between $1,000 and $2,000 worth of pending orders with Alfred Angelo for about 15 customers.
On Saturday morning, as Bailey measured a toddler for a tuxedo for his mother's wedding, one of her employees relayed a phone message from an affected customer.
"She heard what happened," he told Bailey. "And she's concerned."
It was the fourth customer who had heard the news via social media and called to check on the status of an Alfred Angelo order.
"They're panicked, like we are," Bailey said.
She said that none of the pending orders are for bridal gowns, and that none of them are for weddings scheduled to take place in the next two weeks, which will give her some breathing room to sort the situation out.
Right now, she said, she's trying to get a straight answer from Alfred Angelo as to whether or not it will fill the pending orders. If it won't, she said, she will try to accommodate the customers' needs through products on offer from the store's other main supplier, Christina Wu, or offer a refund if necessary.
"We're going to make this right for our customers," she said.
In Florida, The Palm Beach Post reported that scores of employees left the corporate office carrying their personal belongings in cardboard boxes.
Bailey said that it's been difficult to get Alfred Angelo employees on the phone for the last week, but that she was led to believe the trouble was due to technical difficulties with their communication lines.
She said she was most concerned for Alfred Angelo customers who were going through one of the company's 60 direct retail outlets, and had no way to check on the status of their orders.
"They've literally locked their doors," Bailey said. "Those are the people I feel awful for. I heard one story of a bride getting married next week who could see her dress through the store window, but had no way to get at it."
In all, 800 stores carry Alfred Angelo's products, according to its website, which posted a message on its homepage announcing the bankruptcy late Saturday afternoon. Affected stores in the Twin State region include A Trace of Lace Bridal Boutique in Rutland; Needleman's Bridal & Formal locations in Burlington and Newport, Vt.; as well as seven retailers in New Hampshire, including the store in Lebanon.
The New York Times reported that the chain filed for bankruptcy on Friday with $50,000 in assets and $50 million in liabilities. It reported the company's Florida-based lawyer was encouraging the bankruptcy trustee to fulfill as many orders as possible.
As a result of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, the website says, "all stores are closed." The website identifies a woman named Margaret Smith as the company's bankruptcy trustee.
"If you wish to be contacted regarding your order status once information is available please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org," continues the website notice. "We will post additional information regarding the status of dresses on this website as it becomes available."
Reactions on social media ranged from declarations by brides-to-be that the disaster had amounted to the worst day in their lives, to offers from recent brides to loan or give gowns to those who had been affected.
Bailey said that, while her customers were concerned, they are far from the rampaging "bridezilla" stereotype that's been depicted in popular culture over the past several years.
"Bridezillas don't exist," she said. "The people who come here are always looking forward to a happy occasion. They may be picky about what they want, but they're great to work around."
Bailey said that if she can't get a straight answer from Alfred Angelo by the middle of next week, she'll assume that the company will not fill her pending orders, and will then seek alternatives for her customers.
Information from: Lebanon Valley News, http://www.vnews.com