5 On Your Side

Brides in limbo after Raleigh shop locked up

Posted July 27, 2015

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— Local brides are in limbo after the shop where they bought everything from bridal gowns to bridesmaids dresses appears to have suddenly shut down.

On Friday, the doors of La Belle Mariee, at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Millbrook Road in Raleigh, were locked when bride Joanne Wroblewski arrived.

"So, my dress, that I was supposed to pick up today is literally right there, and all I want to do is just go through this window right now and get it," Wroblewski said.

Rachel Stewart had a fitting scheduled, and she wanted to pick up dresses for her flower girls. Tiffany Palmer was hoping to get a refund after she never got the dress she paid for and ended up wearing a sample gown on her wedding day.

Up to 500 brides could be in limbo after doing business at La Belle Mariee, store manager Tiffany Ragston said.

It is a bit of deja vu, because the vice president of the shop, Kathy Purser, has been the subject of a similar story. In 2013, Purser owned Victorian Rose Bridals in Raleigh's Cameron Village shopping center, which was the subject of complaints about dresses that arrived late, in the wrong color, size or otherwise not as ordered.

Purser relocated last fall with a new name.

Ragston said she last talked with Purser on Thursday, when Purser changed the locks, saying former employees hadn't returned keys.

Ragston said Purser never showed up on Friday to open the store, but brides lined up outside. Through the windows, Ragston said she could see that Purser "cleared this entire place out – laptops, financial records, all the brides' records, name it. Anything that's paper is gone, except for her credit card statements.”

"She changed her phone number and blocked everybody off her Facebook," Ragston said.

Five On Your Side tried to reach Purser via her mobile phone, which is now disconnected, through an email to the store and in a visit to her home, which is listed for sale. There was no answer.

There was no answer and a for sale sign at the home of Purser's mother, Beverly Cray, who is the company president.

Rachel Stewart said it came as a complete surprise.

"Kathy actually texted me two days ago and promised us that our flower girl dresses would be here," she said.

She was able to get her bridal gown from the seamstress. Ragston gave Wroblewski and 15 other brides their dresses over the weekend, and she said she's working to get more than 70 dresses that were in the store to the brides who paid for them.

Ragston says anyone waiting for dresses should email her at tiffany@luminesquetravel.com, and she'll help if she can.

According to Ragston, many brides may lose their money because the designers were never paid, so dresses weren't shipped. Ragston says some dresses were never even ordered.


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  • Amy Singleton Jul 29, 2015
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    Ah, what a trusting guy.

    Keep treading. That's some pretty deep denial. No one is excused from theft and fraud because they got a business license and incorporated. Stop excusing theft Paul.

  • Amy Singleton Jul 29, 2015
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    I like that. More GOP hot air justifying theft without legal consequences (she never ordered dresses she accepted money for) as long as you're incorporated or "running a business". Seems like the more you steal or shall we say "harvest" in the name of the almighty LLC or Inc. the greater hero you will become to these types because you know, nobody's bad or evil... just trying to make a buck.... right?

    The nativity is deep and insulting from those who constantly make excuses for fraudulent thieves in the world of business and finance. Good thing is I doubt the attorney general is looking at this as a poor little woman who made bad business decisions.

  • Paul Jones Jul 29, 2015
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    Money you give a business just goes into the general receipts. It's not specifically allocated to one customer or another.

    The dresses might be earmarked for a given customer. But, when the company finally exhausts its cash flow, this happens. Unless there was deliberate intent to defraud, one can't say it was fraud.

    Most businesses that go out of business do so because they ran out of money. Usually, somebody takes a loss. Generally, it's suppliers, but sometimes it's customers.

  • Jason Rea Jul 28, 2015
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    Unless that is a different Tiffany Ragston in that article -->

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  • Edward Anderson Jul 28, 2015
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    If you read the article, it definitely sounds more like "fraud" than just "bad business"....dresses that weren't ordered when the brides had pre-paid for them, and just locking the doors and hiding? Surely, if you were running a "good business", and you knew you were failing, you'd let your customers know so that they aren't banging on the door trying to get their dress on the day of their wedding.

  • Anita Smith Jul 28, 2015
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    But if the same thing happens twice, you begin to question her intent.

  • Paul Jones Jul 28, 2015
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    Stop calling for people to go to jail. This is business. Sometimes businesses fail. When they do, there is a legal process called 'bankruptcy'. Unless there was deliberate intent to defraud somebody, then this is just another business that went out of business. Happens every single day.

  • Kristin Byrne Jul 28, 2015
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    I heard her on the radio this morning. She really does sound like she was trying her best to help everyone out. She said that she had contacted the property manager to let her in the building, so she was able to get dressed, and she talked to the cops to make sure she wasn't breaking any laws. She also said the owner was behind on payroll. Go figure.

    Purser needs to go to jail. When you do the same thing twice, it's a lot more than just poor business acumen.

  • Patty MacRae Jul 28, 2015
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    Ms Tiffany Ragston sounds like an honorable person, trying to help these brides out. Sounds like she is going the extra mile. I hope she finds employment with another company who will appreciate this trait.

  • Angie Cox Jul 28, 2015
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    maybe a clear sign that you shouldn't get married lol...