Recently, a little consignment shop called Bohemia Boutique closed in Wailuku. This sort of thing happens all the time. But with Bohemia, there’s a slight wrinkle: a number of consignees are claiming that owner Carey Sutherland never mentioned to them she was closing the store. Their first notice of the closure came when they stopped by and found it mostly empty, with just a few piles of clothing littered around the premises and multiple signs on the window saying “Closing Sale” and “Blow-out Sale.”
“Everyone has been ditched by Carey, as well as I,” said Phoenix Stone, one of the consignees. “There is now a ‘Leasing’ sign on that store, while items are still all strewn all over the place inside. She has not done anything to make this right for any of the consignees.”
Consignees, understandably concerned about their items, apparently began calling Sutherland. Their potential losses ranged from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Those we spoke to said no one answered the store phone. Sutherland’s cell phone also quickly filled up with voicemails (when I called for this story it was still full).
Those consignees who were able to contact Sutherland received mixed responses. “It was the consignees’ fault that the store had to close” was one reason she allegedly gave them. “Everyone will get back their items and what is owed to them” was another.
When I finally tracked down Sutherland by texting her, she offered still more reasons.
“I was locked out of the store for a few weeks,” she said. “My laptop was taken. Everyone will be taken care of, probably in a week or two. I can understand the panic to a point, but it went a little too far. Everyone’s things should be packed up in a couple of weeks and they will be contacted.”
As for not responding to consignees, Sutherland said she hasn’t been answering them because she was overwhelmed, but is working on clearing her voicemail. She added that her cell phone is still the best way to reach her.
Doug McLeod, Bohemia’s landlord, wasn’t able to provide much insight into the situation. “She tells me she’s returning stuff to people,” he said. “I don’t know what she’s really doing, though.”
All this was little solace to one consignee, who also requested anonymity.
“Right now I’m off island, but, when I get back, I might take her to small claims court,” said the consignee. “Even then, I don’t know what will happen because she might just file for bankruptcy. And it says in the contract that the store will not be responsible for lost, stolen or damaged goods.”
According to Sutherland, the main reason she couldn’t contact the consignees about her impending closure was that she was locked out of the store and couldn’t access her computer, which held all her contact information. Sutherland said her landlord would not give her keys, something McLeod denies.
“I never did lock her out,” he said. “We threatened to change the locks, but we never did actually lock her out. I gave her another set of keys because she said she lost hers. I never took any keys away from Carey. I remember one day we left a key for her in an envelope. One day I met her and gave her an extra set of keys.”
Luckily for some, when Sutherland was behind on her rent payments and close to being evicted, McLeod allowed a few consignees into the store, where they were able to retrieve a some of their items. But one consignee alleges that not all the consignment items were there. McLeod said he documented everything by taking photos and getting the contact information of anyone he let in to the store, to ensure they could be found at a later time.
“There is a security system that monitors everything,” he said. “She has every ability to see what’s happening unless she deleted that information herself.”