The bankrupt owner of five North Carolina Ashley Furniture HomeStore locations is closing up shop.
Liquidation sales began last week at all five of FreDe Enterprises' five Ashley Furniture HomeStore locations in Raleigh, Durham, Clayton, Fayetteville and Goldsboro, said John Spach, marketing director for Ashley.
FreDe filed for bankruptcy in July but had been operating as business as usual. The sudden shift to liquidation took some shoppers by surprise.
Pauletta Gaither of Raleigh didn't find out about the closures until she stopped by the store Saturday to make a payment on items she had on layaway. She was met by large neon signs declaring "Bankruptcy Furniture Liquidation. Going out of Business Sale. Store Closing Forever."
Inside, she learned that she either needed to pay her balance in full or select items from the floor that equaled the value of the amount she had already paid. A refund, she was told, was not possible. She was also told that delivery would cost her an additional $109.
Gaither, a schoolteacher, said no one had told her when she put the items on layaway that the store was in bankruptcy proceedings.
Spach said customers with items on layaway are being notified in writing that they need to pay off their balance and claim their goods or make new selections from the inventory on hand. Gaither said she received a letter Tuesday.
Spach also said that any customers who placed orders before the liquidation sales started will get their items and that all warranties will be honored.
The store closings will remove Ashley Furniture stores from the Triangle market for now, Spach said. FreDe was the only Ashley franchisee in the area. The closures do not affect other Ashley stores operated by other companies in other parts of the state. There are also other furniture stores within the Triangle that sell Ashley furniture products but are not Ashley stores.
The liquidation sales follow the closure this year of two other Ashley stores - in Goldsboro and Durham - owned by FreDe.
At the time of the bankruptcy filing, company partner DeShon Hodge said the filing was made to force a landlord to reopen a store that had been padlocked. However, the filing also listed a number of unsecured home furnishings creditors to which the company owed money, including Sealy and HomeLine Furniture.
As for Gaither, she ended up borrowing against her next paycheck and paying the balance for one of the two pieces she had on layaway. She decided to just let the other one go.
This was Gaither's first experience buying on layaway, and she said it will likely be her last.
"My first thought was, 'Here I am with funds extended that I could be using otherwise.' There's little confidence because the business can go out of business and then my money's gone. ... I think now what I'll do is save the money up and then just go buy it."
Customers with questions can call 919-237-4800.
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