Company's closure leaves kitchen projects in limbo
Posted July 2, 2014
Updated July 14, 2014
Burlington, N.C. — The drawing showing a brand new kitchen featuring cherry-colored cabinets, granite countertops and pendant lights is beautiful, but just looking at it upsets Bob and Marcia Fisher.
"Because that's a dream on paper," says Bob Fisher, seeming to fight back tears. "That dream's gone away now. I don't think we'll ever get it."
The Fishers' dream died when their contractor, American Kitchen Corporation out of Burlington, suddenly closed up shop.
Now, the Fishers' kitchen is split between two rooms of their home.
"We've got a kitchen that's torn up and a living room full of stuff," Bob Fisher says.
Last winter, Fisher removed the wood cabinet doors to refinish them. But then the sink sprang a leak that spread through the cabinets and across the floor. So the Fishers decided they needed a complete kitchen remodel.
After researching online, they hired American Kitchen Corporation out of Burlington. The job cost $27,000. They wrote a check for $8,100 which was a 30 percent down payment.
Bob Fisher told 5 On Your Side that's a lot of money to lose.
"That's a lot of money for me. I don't look to be able to do my kitchen now," he said.
Marcia Fisher tearfully talked about plans she had already made for when the kitchen was complete.
"My daughter got engaged, and I was looking forward to having a shower and being able to entertain in this beautiful new kitchen," she said.
The Fishers' experience is similar to that of many other customers of American Kitchen Corporation.
T.W Dunning of Salisbury told us he paid the company $15,000. For two months, he's been living with paper-covered walls and bare floors.
Paul and Francis Tausch of Wake Forest say they put down $12,000 in cash and nothing has been done.
Doreen Pearson of Raleigh paid $40,000. She says she's still waiting for shelves in her cabinets, granite countertops, a sink and stove.
5 On Your Side also obtained a list of 101 American Kitchen Corporation customers who live in the Triangle and beyond and is working to find out the status of their projects.
The 20 customers 5 On your Side talked with have paid American Kitchen Corporation a combined total of more than $313,000. $127,000 of that was paid by customers whose work never started or who saw only cabinets were removed.
Peggy and Howard Abernathy of Raleigh are on the list. They paid $18,800 down in February and say no work is done. Their salesman was Rob Selfors. He's also a pastor at Kirk Church in Raleigh.
Selfors ran Kitchen Carolina, a company we warned you about in 2010. At the time, Selfors told us the company had a backlog of 425 incomplete kitchens.
After Attorney General Roy Cooper got involved, Kitchen Carolina stopped taking new jobs, and Selfors promised he'd complete the projects.
5 On your Side talked with Selfors by phone Wednesday. He says since the closing of his company, he has worked only as a salesman for American Kitchen. He told us the owner, Tyler Sheets, is "going through a difficult time" and that the closing of the company "came as a surprise" to him also.
People who live in a Graham neighborhood where Selfors and Sheets lived next-door to each other several years ago describe the two men as “very good friends.”
At the brick building on Tucker Street in Burlington where the business operated, a row of white company trucks with logos were parked out back. But inside, offices appeared cleared out.
So 5 On Your Side went to Sheets' home on Southern High Mount Herman Road in Burlington where his wife answered the door.
"I'm sorry, not right now. Thank you though," Michelle Sheets told Monica Laliberte who pressed, "There's a lot of people that would sure like to know what's going on." Sheets repeated "Thank you," and she closed the door.
Some customers got an email signed by Tyler Sheets that said the company "lost steam" and "announced a major layoff due to financial difficulty" then offered "many apologies."
The apologies don't mean much for customers out thousands of dollars.
"All numbers have been disconnected, any email has never been returned," Bob Fisher said. "So I'm just kinda left out here hanging. I just want my money back so I can get my kitchen done."
Cooper's office is now investigating 26 complaints against American Kitchen Corporation. They believe the company is linked to Kitchen Carolina, saying they have some of the same key people, same business model, same location and similar types of complaints from consumers. Any consumers having issues with the company should file a complaint.
Some customers who paid by credit card have been able to get their money back after filing disputes with their credit card companies.
5 On Your Side tips on hiring a contractor
Never pay more than 10 percent up front to a contractor.
As the project starts and work is done, gradually pay more so that the payment is relative to the amount of work done.
Check with your county’s Home Builders Association as well as the local Home Remodelers Council. While membership is voluntary, it can indicate a desire to adhere to industry standards. American Kitchen Corporation is not a member of either organization.