Just saw a story on this on ABC news… couldnt find a link to it on their site but I did find this… why am I not surprised? All I can say is… we got lucky 🙂
RB store’s closure leaves brides feeling jilted
Amid differing stories on boutique’s demise, women scramble to be sure they’ll still have dresses.
By Kristin S. Agostoni
Yolanda Ornelas visited five bridal shops before she found the perfect dress at Panache in Redondo Beach. It was a strapless silk gown she modeled in February and bought during the same shopping excursion, shelling out $1,800 to wear the designer number on her wedding day.
Now, with three months to go before her Aug.11 nuptials, Ornelas hasn’t gotten her gown and can’t reach any store employees. For two weeks, she’s called the Redondo Beach boutique and another in Los Altos, but she said no one has returned her messages. And, save for a few cardboard boxes, Panache has packed up and emptied the space it occupied on Avenue I in Riviera Village.
With wedding season in full swing, the store’s unexpected closing has sent ripples through the South Bay’s brides-to-be and network of boutiques.
Store President Jacques Robinson said Wednesday he was working overtime to fill orders and answer anxious phone messages from people who aren’t aware he’d left Redondo Beach. He blamed the shop’s demise on “a series of unfortunate circumstances” that spurred a wave of panic.
But worried brides who haven’t heard those assurances have been re-ordering gowns and venting their frustrations on wedding Web sites. Some seem more crushed and upset than they are angry.
“I’m kind of in tears,” said Mary Martin of Oakville, Wash., who in February handed over a $2,700 check for her daughter Maylana’s gown. “We weren’t really supposed to hear from them until the end of May ? so we started calling then, and we got the recording. We’ve been trying to e-mail them and call them, to no avail.”
Brides of California in Torrance, which carries some of the same designer pieces, has received about a half-dozen inquiries from women looking to re-order their own dresses or those for their wedding parties, said store manager Laura Acosta.
One of Acosta’s customers, Michelle Galera of Carson, said she showed up at Panache early last month to inquire about the four bridesmaids’ dresses she ordered in January. When she discovered the store had closed, her fiance, who lives in Santa Clara, later dropped by the nearby Los Altos shop. He found the door locked and a note telling deliverymen to redirect packages, Galera said.
Although she’s still out money, Galera opted to order the dresses again, this time through Brides of California. She said she’s considering taking the Redondo Beach shop to small claims court.
“The store is empty,” she said of Panache. “There’s nobody there.”
Robinson says a sewage leak in his former Riveria Village building set the stage for the shop’s closing, although the management company denies it.
The plan was to shift about 150 outstanding orders to the Los Altos boutique and notify Redondo Beach customers that their dresses would be shipped to a different location.
“We created, unfortunately, more anxiety than was necessary when the store was closed,” he said. “It wasn’t handled as well as it should have been and created a lot of panic in the process.”
The company left a phone recording telling brides about the switch and store employees were supposed to contact the customers, but Robinson said the outreach “was at best done haphazardly.”
And when the “tsunami of phone calls” hit the the Los Altos shop, the manager quit, he said. The goal was to open that shop by appointment, but Robinson said he realized last week the plan wasn’t feasible.
His goal for the time being is to sell both shops so that, if need be, he can reimburse customers.
“I am actively making sure brides are getting their dresses and simultaneously working to sell the store,” he said.
Complicating matters is that Panache’s founder and vice president, Debra Willenberg, has been ill for several months, he added.
The management company that owns the modern Spanish-style building where Panache sold designer gowns and accessories disputed Robinson’s claims that a sewage problem led to the store’s demise. The boutique’s Web site states that a “a substantial leak” in February sent raw sewage flowing through the dressing room walls, forcing the store to close for three weeks.
The site says the leak occurred in the middle of a trunk show for the designer Marianne Lanting, which was “immediately halted.”
“The store, it smelled like a toilet,” Robinson said.
Michael Israelsky, a property manager with Summit Team of Fountain Valley, painted a far different picture. He said the store’s dressing rooms got wet when a toilet leaked in a neighboring restaurant, which subsequently picked up the bill for the carpet cleaning.
A spokesman with the Los Angeles County Health Department said the agency was called to investigate a leak Feb 13. but could not confirm the liquid was sewage.
“That was the only time” a problem occurred, Israelsky said. “A toilet overflow ? I don’t really call sewage.”
Panache had been located at another storefront in the building but moved to a new space just a couple of months before, Israelsky said.
“I feel awful. Nothing is probably as meaningful as somebody’s wedding dress,” he said.as no reason why they weren’t.”
At least one formerly anxious bride is now without any wedding wear worries.
Danika Vasquez of Lomita said Panache agreed to give her a $341 refund after realizing her flower girls’ dresses weren’t going to make it on time. She was able to reorder the identical gowns at a Torrance shop and they arrived May 29 – in time for her wedding this Saturday.