Urban Floral Designs suddenly vacated store last month
Karine Daoust was newly engaged to fiance Steve Bishop and excited to start planning their wedding when she made a $565 deposit at Urban Floral Designs in April 2013.
She said owners Allison Beaulieu and Lisa Laurin told her they'd contact her in the new year to work out the floral arrangements for her August 2014 wedding.
When she hadn't heard from them by mid-February, she called the business and set up an appointment for an April consultation.
But then Daoust started hearing rumours the florist was in financial trouble, and emailed the owners. The reply Daoust received said Urban Floral was working a few things out, but not to worry, they'd be honouring all their customers.
Late last month, though, a sign appeared in the business' Regent Street location that sent a chill through her heart.
“Urban Flowers has closed permanently,” the sign read.
Although the business' website is still operating, its Facebook page has been pulled down and its phone is out of service.
Brides and grooms who had booked with the business have taken to Facebook to voice their concerns, setting up the page “Betrayed Brides” to air their grievances. The page had 120 members as of March 3.
It features stories of couples who say they're out hundreds or thousands of dollars.
But when contacted by Northern Life through her personal Facebook page, Laurin said Urban Floral Designs is still in business and couples should not be concerned that contracts would not be honoured.
“This matter is being handled by our lawyer right now,” Laurin wrote to NorthernLife.ca on Feb. 28. “We are still in business despite what our landlord has posted on our windows (we did a wedding today in fact) and what people are saying.”
“We never told anyone that we were closing our business and we're honouring all brides, we would have never left them high and dry. I cannot further comment on the matter.”
Greg Haddad, who owns the building where Urban Floral Designs had been located, said the business owners suddenly vacated the store Feb. 21. He said he didn't evict Beaulieu and Laurin, although they owe him several months' rent, but he did post the sign on the door, explaining he thought it would help customers get their money back.
Whether the business is still operating, Haddad said he didn't know, but he is sure it will no longer be operating out of his Regent Street building.
“I mean, they're not paying me rent,” Haddad said. “They're not going back there.”
Haddad's son is one of those people who put a deposit down for wedding flowers with Urban Floral.
Despite Laurin's assurance Urban Floral Designs is still in business, Daoust said she has already ordered her flowers from another florist, and is in the process of trying to get her deposit back through her credit card company.
“If they are going to contact me and tell me they'll still be honouring my deposit, I'll just tell them that with everything that's happened, I wasn't comfortable with the whole thing, and I decided to do something else,” she said.
The president of the the Better Business Bureau in Ottawa, which covers northeastern Ontario, said she's received two complaints about Urban Floral Designs over the past week.
The Better Business Bureau has since classified the business as “closed” on the organization's online review, Diane Iadeluca said.
She said she did that partly to help out customers who need evidence that the business has closed down, as that helps when trying recover a deposit paid with a credit card.
The Ministry of Consumer Services offers the following advice to those booking wedding services, as well as those who may be out money:
-Research the company or provider before handing over a deposit.
-Check the Consumer Beware List for information postings about the company.
-Keep a copy of your deposit receipt.
-Consider paying deposits via credit card as you can dispute the billing with your credit card issuer. This may be a way of having your deposit returned. Disputes over deposits paid in cash or with debit may wind up in small claims court.
-Write to the company, asking for a return of the deposited monies within a reasonable timeframe. Keep a copy of your correspondence.
-The Office of the Supervisor of Bankruptcy Canada (1-877-376-9902) should be contacted to determine if the company has filed for bankruptcy. If so, the Trustee in the Bankruptcy may be contacted.
-Get legal advice. The Lawyer Referral Service at the Law Society of Upper Canada can provide up to one half hour of free advice and may be reached at 1-800-268-8326.
-The local police may also be contacted if the consumer believes they have been defrauded.
-Consumers are encouraged to make the Ministry of Consumers Affairs aware of such situations. Depending on the nature of the issue, the consumer may file a complaint against the provider. The ministry can be reached at 1-800-889-9768 or Ontario.ca/consumerprotection.