Proceeds from today's auction will go to the store owners' lenders.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
WARREN -- Rhonda Clark is done crying. Now she wants justice.
Clark and her fianc & eacute;, Benjamin Parker, said they've paid at least $2,000 in deposits to Matina's Bridal to order a $1,600 designer bridal gown and seven plum-colored bridesmaid dresses.
Now the Warren landmark is closing, the dresses haven't come in, and the manufacturer told her the dresses were never ordered.
The couple is scrambling to outfit their bridal party all over again for their May wedding.
"Two weeks ago I added another bridesmaid, and they didn't say a word about closing. They told me the dresses should be in sometime in March," she said. "I can't cry anymore. I'm seeing an attorney tomorrow."
"We want reimbursed," Parker added. "We'll get a lien on their house, their cars, whatever. We're not going to let this go."
Clark was one of several distraught brides attending an open house Friday afternoon at the bridal store at 2815 Youngstown-Warren Road S.E. Auctioneer R.J. Reimold of Transfer, Pa., was to auction the real estate, merchandise and store fixtures starting at 10 a.m. today.
Reimold said store owners Michael and Maria Ashiolas planned the open house to give customers a chance to pick up any merchandise they'd already paid for. The owners did not attend the event and could not be reached to comment.
"I'm furious. Hysterical, really," said Corrin Petrocco of Warren. She paid for her $900 designer gown last June and also put deposits at Matina's on nine beige bridesmaid gowns. The dresses never came.
"They promised the dresses would be here by November, then in November they said the dockworkers' strike had caused a hold-up," she said, shaking her head. "I found out last week that the manufacturer is in Texas, so the dock strike had nothing to do with it. I think it's a lost cause."
Petrocco said she's shopping for another gown, but with her May 10 wedding date so close she's worried she won't be able to order a dress in time.
The Ashiolases' attorney, Mark Beatrice, said the couple filed for protection under Chapter 13 of the federal bankruptcy law in October. Under Chapter 13 the debtors promise to repay as many debtors as possible from available income.
Matina's Bridal did not file for bankruptcy protection, he said, but proceeds from the auction will go to the Ashiolases' lenders. Proceeds from the real estate sale will go to the bank that has the mortgage on the store property, Beatrice said, and proceeds from the store merchandise will go to two banks that lent money to the business.
Matina's had been in business in Warren for decades, but Beatrice said the Ashiolases bought the store around 1997 or 1998. Business had been slow for the past two years, he said, and the couple believes the problems were related to the general downturn in the economy.
Beatrice said the couple expects to continue receiving merchandise ordered over the past several months and plans to contact customers when their gowns come in. He said he couldn't say whether the owners will reimburse the deposits left by customers who have now decided to buy their dresses elsewhere.