Thousands of brides panicked over the closing of the Alfred Angelo bridal chain had no official recourse Friday beyond emailing a Miami bankruptcy lawyer and begging, cajoling, demanding and pleading for help.
“It’s been about 7,300 emails since yesterday,” said Patricia Ann Redmond, who is representing Alfred Angelo as it pursues liquidation through bankruptcy. “I’ve been prioritizing them by the dates of their weddings.”
When the chain’s 60 stores began abruptly shutting their doors Thursday, managers were left with instructions to post a sign on the front window announcing “STORE CLOSED” and offering Redmond’s email at Miami’s Stearns Weaver Miller for further information.
Redmond said she knew the frenzy a shuttered bridal store would cause women awaiting their dresses on a tight schedule with a wedding date looming. So she wanted them to have someone to reach who was willing to help.
“It’s good it’s a human being,” she said. “I didn’t want to make people have to email the company and there be nobody there.”
Failing businesses with a hope of survival often file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and continue operating while they negotiate with creditors under the supervision of a federal judge. But on Friday, Alfred Angelo and its various corporate entities filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, the category reserved for businesses ready to cease operations and liquidate their assets.
As part of its Chapter 7 filing, Alfred Angelo dismissed all of its employees, including executives at its headquarters in Delray Beach. That’s left darkened stores across the country, and nobody to contact but Redmond for relief. She said headquarters told stores to ship out any dresses ordered by brides before closing the stores for good. But not all did.
“There are still dresses due to brides in the stores,” Redmond said. “People are calling and saying, ‘My dress is in the store, and I can see it.’”
The company’s website on Friday night had no mention of its closing, but gushed about extending the chain’s “Get It Now or Never!” sale that includes discounts as high as 80 percent for “all in-store bridal gowns.”
Redmond described a spectrum of distress from brides. “Someone said: ‘You’ve ruined my life.” I said, ‘No, I probably didn’t,’” Redmond said. “One said: ‘I really apologize. I know you’re swamped.’”
“I really feel bad for the brides,” Redmond said.
As of Friday night, Redmond faced two pressing emergencies: brides needing Alfred Angelo gowns for weddings the next day. One is believed to be in the Alfred Angelo store in Riverside, Calif., where the bride-to-be has apparently contacted the Starbucks next door, who confirmed workers remain in the bridal store and was preparing to head there to extract the dress with Redmond’s permission.
That leaves the second Saturday dress in Boynton Beach. Nobody appears to be in that store, and Redmond was mailed the location’s key once it closed. She shared no immediate plan of action for that dress. “I have until six o’clock tomorrow night,” she said Friday.
While Redmond’s immediate worry were the two dresses due Saturday, the retail victims of the Chapter 7 filing threaten to only expand in the coming days and weeks as more wedding dates approach. Alfred Angelo had planned on having a shipment from China arrive on the West Coast with about $1.2 million worth of dresses and accessories. The ship is already underway, and Redmond said she’s arranging a short-term loan to get the cargo off-loaded and the bridal orders fulfilled.
The unusual economics of bridal wear has Redmond scrambling to pair dresses with customers. While a store’s inventory typically sells at deep discounts during liquidation, bridal gowns await customers willing to pay top dollars for their dress of choice. Then there’s the issue of customized merchandise. “Some of these dresses are fitted,” she said.
Redmond came to Miami for college, attending the University of Miami and then graduating from its law school in 1979. She stayed in Miami after school, becoming a partner at Stearns Weaver and teaching UM law classes at night.
She was married in 1975. “I bought my dress off the rack,” she said.