Alfred Angelo files for bankruptcy leaving brides-to-be without their dresses

With weddings approaching, brides-to-be who trusted Alfred Angelo Bridal with their dresses were frustrated when the company filed for bankruptcy on Friday afternoon and closed all of its stores.

Aaron Kusher was angry when he showed up to the Sunrise store looking for an explanation for his bride-to-be who found her dream dress at Alfred Angelo. The back was sheer and it had a church train. 

“If I had a match, I would burn the store down in a second,” Kusher said. 

Patricia Redmond, a lawyer for Stearns Weaver Miller, helped the Delray Beach-based national chain to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in Florida. Kusher was with his mom, Mindy Kusher, who wanted an explanation. 

“How could a bridal store not notify their brides?”

It was a question that brides who trusted Alfred Angelo Bridal were asking nationwide. The company has 60 signature stores and also sold dresses at 1,400 locations worldwide.

Company employees said they didn’t know anything about the plans until this week. Many stores closed on Thursday without giving any warning to the brides.

Redmond told USA Today that the company would work to fulfill all orders that had already been purchased from Alfred Angelo and said that some of the dresses were sent by mail before the closures. 

“It typically always gets better after the bankruptcy filing for customers who have goods that have already been purchased,” Redmond said.

The company also intends to help customers with a list of seamstresses for alterations. A few bridal retailers, including David’s Bridal, offered discounts to Alfred Angelo customers with valid receipts. 

The company debuted their Truly Yours bridal collection in March at the National Bridal Market in Chicago. It was supposed to be available beginning in the fall. They were also planning the release of the Bella Vita collection in 2018. 

They were also marketing their Signature and Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, Sapphire and Modern Vintage collections. 

Records show Janet Hoyt of Deerfield Beach filed a lawsuit against the company earlier this year claiming it had committed Americans with Disabilities violations. The law prohibits discrimination based on disabilities. The case closed in June after a settlement for an undisclosed amount. 

Alfred Angelo was looking for a buyer and when they couldn’t find one, they decided to close without warning their employees or customers. With so many unhappy, the Better Business Bureau was getting involved. 

None of the explanations were enough for Jessica Ringler, who ordered a Disney Belle dress in Coral Gables. When no one answered her questions, she was emotional. 

“I don’t have another $2,500,” Rindler said in tears.  

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David’s Bridal steps in to help brides panicked by Alfred Angelo closures

David’s Bridal is helping out brides who are in a panic after Alfred Angelo unexpectedly closed its stores on Thursday.

“We know how much goes into planning a wedding, and we want to ensure that everyone affected by this news can still have the day of their dreams,” David’s Bridal posted on its website. “If you recently purchased a wedding dress or bridesmaid dress from an Alfred Angelo retail store and did not receive it, we are offering a discount on a replacement dress of your choice.”

Customers can visit any David’s Bridal in the U.S. to receive the discount as long as they have their receipt from Alfred Angelo.

“The wedding day is the most important day of a woman’s life, and this can certainly upset the bride,” Laura Arango, store manager of the David’s Bridal in Coral Gables, said. 

The bridal retailer is offering 30 percent off wedding dresses, 20 percent off bridesmaid dresses and is offering to waive rush fees for alterations needed to meet event dates.

The discount includes current promotions and clearance prices.

Employees were spotted leaving Alfred Angelo’s corporate headquarters this week in Delray Beach with boxes.

A woman, who did not want to be named, told Local 10 News on Thursday that she had to rush to pick up her bridal party dress before the store she purchased it from closed.

“They called me. I’m in this wedding, and they said if you want the dress for the wedding, you have to come today, because the store is closing, and we just found out today. All the employees found out today,” she said.

Alfred Angelo Piccione and Edythe Vincent Piccione co-founded the company in 1933 and sold their dresses and merchandise at 4,000 retailers worldwide. The company was running about 60 Alfred Angelo Bridal Signature stores in the U.S.

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Alfred Angelo bridal retailer’s customers panic amid closures

The Alfred Angelo bridal retailer corporate headquarters in Delray Beach were empty on Thursday. Employees packed their belongings in boxes and walked out. 

Alfred Angelo Piccione and Edythe Vincent Piccione co-founded the company in 1933 and the company website sited their wedding dresses were sold at 4,000 retailers worldwide. The company was running about 60 Alfred Angelo Bridal Signature stores in America. 

A woman, who did not want to be named, said she had to rush to pick up her bridal party dress before the store she purchased it from closed. 

“They called me. I’m in this wedding and they said if you want the dress for the wedding you have to come today because the store is closing and we just found out today. All the employees found out today,” she said.

Records show Janet Hoyt of Deerfield Beach filed a lawsuit against the company claiming it had committed Americans with Disabilities violations. The law prohibits discrimination based on disabilities. The case closed in June after a settlement for an undisclosed amount. 

The company debuted their Truly Yours bridal collection in March at the National Bridal Market in Chicago. It was supposed to be available beginning in the fall. They were also planning the release of the Bella Vita collection in 2018. 

They were also marketing their Signature and Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, Sapphire and Modern Vintage collections. 

Local 10 News Peggy Phillip contributed to this report. 

 

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Desperate Venezuelans set sights on Colombia as worry mounts

As the first hint of dawn stretches over a Colombian neighborhood known as “Little Mene Grande” after the warm, Venezuelan city where so many recent arrivals are from, six men and women rise from worn, flattened mattresses.

The women do their makeup in front of a mirror hanging from the security bars inside a window. One wraps her 4-month-old daughter in a fuzzy yellow blanket. The men don jackets and baseball caps.

Bogota is cold compared to their Venezuelan hometown and their day will be long. The task: Sell 54 mangos at less than a dollar each in hopes of sending a sliver of what they earn to relatives struggling even more back home.

“I never imagined living like this,” says Genesis Montilla, 26, a nurse and single mother who left her three children with their grandmother.

While Venezuela plunges further into political and economic ruin, the flight of its citizens is accelerating, reaching levels unseen in its history. Experts believe nearly one-tenth of its population of around 31 million now lives outside the country. For better-off professionals the preferred destination is Spain or the U.S., where Venezuelans are overstaying their visas in droves and now lead asylum requests for the first time – 18,155 last year alone.

But for many poor people fleeing Venezuela’s triple-digit inflation, hours-long food lines and medical shortages, Colombia is the journey’s end. The neighboring Andean nation has received more Venezuelans than any other nation. Estimates indicate more than 1 million have arrived in the last two decades, reversing the previous trend of Colombians fleeing war heading to Venezuela.

The most desperate cross illegally through one of hundreds of “trochas,” unpaved dirt roads along Venezuela’s porous 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border with Colombia.

“When you talk to Venezuelans, they all say, ‘I want to come,'” said Saraid Valbuena, 20, who made the journey with her husband and their then 1-month-old daughter earlier this year. “Even though you come here to sleep on the ground, people want to come because they know with a day or two of work at least they’ll eat.”

The influx shows no sign of waning and has worried Colombian officials enough that they are crafting contingency plans in the event of an even larger spike or a repeat of a crisis like the one in 2015, when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro overnight expelled some 20,000 Colombians.

Recently, Colombia’s government sent a delegation to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey to learn how to respond to a sudden wave of mass migration. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is also studying how prepared their offices in Colombia, as well as Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago, are to deal with a potential swell of Venezuelan migrants.

“Since about a year and a half ago, it has been a constant flow,” said Daniel Pages, president of the Venezuelans in Colombia Association. “They need to leave in order to live.”

Officially, Venezuela denies its citizens are fleeing to Colombia. As recently as February, Maduro claimed Colombians were still pouring “en masse” into Venezuela. Venezuela has not released migration statistics in more than a decade.

Valbuena and Montilla share four tiny bedrooms made of cinder blocks with 12 others. They’ve scrounged used jackets to withstand Bogota’s damp, Andean climate. One of the flattened mattresses in a bedroom was pulled from the trash.

“Every day I wake up wanting to leave, but I can’t,” says Montilla, who in Venezuela lived in a comfortable home with her children but earned less in one day at an emergency room clinic than the cost of a tube of toothpaste.

On a typical day, Montilla and five others take a bus to a wholesale food market where they purchase mangos. But on this day, mango season is winding down and prices are rising as the fruit becomes scarcer. Instead of about $4 for a bundle of 30 mangos, the seller wants $7.50, nearly double.

They don’t have the money.

Instead, they decide to try and sell the 54 mangos still left in the wooden carts they store overnight in a wealthier part of Bogota.

Baby bundled and jackets on, the group departs from their apartment toward the bus station. As they approach the station, two policemen in yellow reflector jackets stop them.

“Identity cards, everyone,” an officer demands.

“We’re Venezuelan,” several in the group reply.

The officers, surprised by the group’s bluntness, announce that they will call migration, a threat that doesn’t faze the Venezuelans. One of the three girls in the group pulls out a border card that allows short trips into Colombia. The officers appear satisfied but tell them to carry ID cards next time.

Decades ago, 4 million Colombians poured into Venezuela at a time when their own nation was engulfed in armed conflict with guerrillas and Venezuela’s oil-rich economy was booming.

Many of the Venezuelans arriving today have Colombian roots, but those who do not find gaining legal status difficult. Unlike nearby Peru, which has offered Venezuelan arrivals temporary work visas, Colombia does not provide any sort of humanitarian legal status to Venezuelans. Refugee visas are available but can take more than two years to process.

In the early years of the late President Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution, fleeing oil executives and other wealthy Venezuelans arrived in Colombia in such numbers that they drove up real estate prices and made getting into elite private schools even more difficult. But the newest arrivals come with little more than the change in their pockets.

Though many come from Venezuela’s lower and middle classes, Montilla and her friends have seen even skilled professionals like architects and engineers arriving in Colombia and sleeping in bus stations.

Montilla said she decided to leave when her children began saying, “I’m hungry” and she had nothing to feed them.

She told her children her plans before departing.

“Go,” her oldest son, 10, said. “So that we aren’t hungry.”

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Airbnb manages to get its logo on display at luxury hotel in Miami Beach

In an ironic twist of fate, the Airbnb red company logo was all over Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

As the top sponsors of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the short-term rental marketplace’s company managed to get their logo on the chest of mayors from around the country — including Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine.

The logo was a part of the event’s hanging identification badge that Levine and other participants of the nonpartisan organization’s 85th annual conference were required to wear while at the luxury hotel.

“Airbnb is a fantastic, amazing company,”  Levine said. 

The mayor added that Aibnb works beautifully in other cities, but not in Miami Beach. The irony had Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis and Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman and others laughing.

The powerful members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, who included a bottle of tanning lotion in the welcome bags for the conference, had Levine on their side when they moved to neutralize Airbnb’s reach in Miami Beach. 

Airbnb hosts in South Beach were stunned when commissioners voted unanimously late last year to tighten regulations on the short-term rentals. City officials threatened Airbnb hosts with fees as high as $20,000 per violation. They issued millions in fines. 

Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s policy chief, said he noticed there was “a little bit” of an irony in their presence, but said it wasn’t planned. Airbnb sponsored the event last year and has partnerships with many of the participant cities in the U.S. 

Lehane said the company hasn’t lost hope in developing a relationship with Miami Beach. Lehane said last year’s conference helped the company to work out a deal with New Orleans.

“As we say to Miami Beach, we are always interested and happy, excited to sit down with a city,” Lehane said.  But only “when it is ready to do so.”

Lehane also had a confession to make about where he was staying until the end of the event on Monday. He was staying at an Airbnb outside of Miami Beach. 

Local 10 News Michael Seiden and Andrea Torres contributed to this story. 

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Trump’s new U.S.-Cuba policy rejects ‘oppressors’

At the San Cristobal Paladar in Havana, Cubans were watching President Donald Trump declare Friday that he was restoring some travel and economic restrictions on Cuba.

Carlos Cristóbal Márquez, the restaurant’s owner, watched Trump’s  announcement near to where President Barack Obama dined during his historic trip in March. He remembers him as a humble man. 

“America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors,” Trump said during a rally in Miami’s Little Havana. “They are rejected officially today — Rejected.”
 
There was loud applause and cheers at the crowded auditorium in Miami. But at the San Cristobal Paladar,  Márquez worried about the private sector. There was silence when Trump targeted the U.S.-Cuba economic engagement that has helped their business growth.
 
“A free Cuba is what we will soon achieve,” Trump said as he challenged the communist government of Cuban President Raul Castro to negotiate a better deal.
 
Trump also said penalties on Cuba would remain in place until its government releases political prisoners, stops abusing dissidents and respects freedom of expression. Trump also said Cuba had secured far too many concessions from the U.S. in the “misguided” deal but “now those days are over.” 

Trump aims to halt the flow of U.S. dollars to the country’s military and security services. Individual “people-to-people” trips will again be prohibited. The U.S. government will make sure groups are traveling with a tour group representative and follow a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”

In Cuba, Granma, the official organ of the nation’s Communist Party, covered Friday’s speech in a real-time blog, saying “Trump’s declarations are a return to imperialist rhetoric and unilateral demands, sending relations between Havana and Washington back into the freezer.”

The U.S. severed ties with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution, and spent subsequent decades trying to either overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including by toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The trade embargo remains in place under Trump. Only the U.S. Congress can lift it, and lawmakers, especially those of Cuban heritage, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, another Florida Republican, have shown no interest in doing so.

On the stage in Miami, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said the U.S. would no longer have to witness the “embarrassing spectacle” of an American president being friendly with a dictator.

“President Trump will treat the Castro regime as a malevolent dictatorship that it is,” Diaz-Balart said. “Thank you, President Trump, for keeping your commitments. You have not betrayed us. You kept your promise.”

Rubio staunchly opposed Obama’s re-engagement with Cuba, and he lauded Trump as he took the stage.

“Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba,” Rubio said.

Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president and head of international affairs, told The Associated Press that the U.S. private sector engagement can be a positive force for the kind of change most wish to see in Cuba.

“Unfortunately, today’s moves actually limit the possibility for positive change on the island and risk ceding growth opportunities to other countries that, frankly, may not share America’s interest in a free and democratic Cuba that respects human rights,” Brilliant said. 

Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open. U.S. airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of Florida. The “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to U.S. soil but was terminated under Obama, will remain terminated. Remittances to Cuba won’t be cut off.

More about the policy:

  • Deals with the Cuban military’s Grupo de Administración Empresarial, or GAESA, are prohibited. 

  • Non-academic educational travel will be limited to group travel. Self-directed, individual travel will be prohibited. 

  • The policy memorandum directs the Treasury and Commerce departments to begin the process of issuing new regulations within 30 days. The policy changes will not take effect until those departments have finalized their new regulations, a process that may take several months. 

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