EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 7, 2013

AG's office steps in to help boutique customers

24 complaints filed by people seeking return of wedding gowns

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — The state Attorney General is stepping in to help people who left wedding gowns on consignment at a local boutique and are unable to get the dresses back.

Several people said the Bride To Bride Boutique in Lafayette Square closed without their knowledge and they want the gowns they left at the shop returned.

Police said they received complaints from several people. Police said they have tried to contact the shop’s owner, but have been unsuccessful.

Now, the Attorney General is asking people who left items at the shop to contact the Consumer Protection Program of Community Action Inc.

Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley, said her office received 24 consumer complaints against the Bride to Bride Boutique since June of last year. Fennimore said Coakley’s office is cooperating with Community Action to help people recover their items.

Last month, several people told The Eagle-Tribune they tried to retrieve dresses still in the shop, but every time they stopped by, the business was closed and locked up. The Eagle-Tribune called the phone number listed for the Bride To Bride Boutique and the number was not in service.

Doug Julian of Boston said he left 29 wedding gowns there on consignment and that he wanted them back. He said returned to the shop repeatedly to retrieve the dresses, which he and his fiance hoped would be sold, but on every visit the doors were locked, he said.

Julian said he filed a report with Haverhill police and also filed a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said police believe the shop owner left the state and that she may be in Florida. Thompson said it appeared to be a civil matter and that no crimes have been committed.

According to the city clerk’s office, on June 24, 2011, Margaret Sims filed for a business certificate to do business as the Bride To Bride Boutique, 63 Wingate St. The city clerk’s office said it was not informed the business had relocated to Lafayette Square.

Sara Lavado of Tewksbury said she placed her wedding dress on consignment at the boutique more than a year ago. When the one-year contract she signed expired in January, she tried to contact the shop, but could not reach anyone, she said. She complained to police, telling them that every time she visited the shop it was closed. Lavado said she filed a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

Police said they believe there is a civil action pending between the building owner and the owner of Bride To Bride Boutique.

In July 2011, The Haverhill Gazette published a story about the Bride To Bride Boutique opening on Wingate Street. In that story, shop owner Margaret Sims said she spent the previous eight months acquiring more than 100 dresses through Craigslist and other websites to make gently used dresses available to customers. Sims said she formerly held a job as a police officer in Florida, while her husband worked as an officer for the Salisbury Police.

To file a complaint People who left items on consignment at the Bride To Bride Boutique are encouraged to call Community Action Inc. at 978-373-1971, ext. 236, to file a complaint.