TAMPA — Lauren Adams had already heard the news that the Alfred Angelo bridal store chain was closing suddenly.
She made drive to the N Dale Mabry Highway store anyway, hoping she could still pick up the bridesmaid dress she ordered for a close friend's wedding.
Instead of the bustle she would have normally encountered at the boutique-style store at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, she was greeted by a "closed" sign taped to the door, like those awaiting customers across the country.
The Florida-based retailer filed for bankruptcy in West Palm Beach court on Friday, leaving customers all over the U.S. confused, frustrated and panicked.
"Two of us haven't got our bridesmaids dresses," said Adams, 29. "I don't know what we're going to end up doing."
Adams said the store never called her about the $224 dress she ordered in April. She was still waiting on alterations. The big day is Oct. 28.
All her calls to the stores in Tampa and Orlando and the cooperate offices went to voicemails with full inboxes. She emailed the lawyer appointed to work with a trustee to release the dresses being held, but hasn't heard back yet.
That lawyer is Patricia Redmond of the Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson firm. Redmond told the Sun Sentinel newspaper in South Florida she had more than 3,500 emails on Friday from panicked customers. She couldn't immediately be reached by the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday.
Alfred Angelo had 18 locations in Florida alone, according to its website, and 675 in North America — as well as some in Europe and Japan. The company marketed fashionable dresses at affordable prices and had a popular line inspired by Disney princesses.
Even for those brides and bridesmaids lucky enough to have their dress in hand, there's still another set of problems when it comes to alterations, according to Tampa maid of honor Ashley George, 31. Albert Angelo required payment up front for alterations.
She was relived when she found out that her sister's wedding gown wasn't trapped inside the Tampa store, but rather with a seamstress. But then George found out the seamstress had never gotten the $300 her sister paid to Alfred Angelo for alterations.
"She said Alfred Angelo told her to just shut her phone off," George said. "But luckily she's a good person and she's in the process of contacting all the brides if she has their dress."
Her sister paid the seamstress an additional $30 toward the cost of alterations.
"We didn't care what we had to pay," she said. "We just wanted to get the dress back."
What comes next for the brides and bridesmaids waiting for their gowns is still unclear.
A document released by Redmond's office explaining the company's plans to liquidate its assets under chapter 7 bankruptcy states the company "regrets" the "dramatic impact" that will have on costumers and that it "will encourage the chapter 7 trustee to finish and fulfill as many orders as possible."
Adams felt at a loss Saturday.
She doesn't expect to see her dress — or her money — again. She even checked Ebay to see if she could find the gown so she would match the rest of the party.
Contact Sara DiNatale at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8862. Follow @sara_dinatale.