Bella Vista owner claims bankruptcy

Published: Aug. 27, 2013 at 10:16 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2013 at 1:16 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Throughout the day, we watched as would-be customers walked up to Bella Vista, trying to get in. The doors are locked and the lights are off, but wedding dresses still decorate the store's front windows.

It is a dress inside that bride-to-be Leah Baker picked out to wear on her special day.

"It was exciting," said Baker. "I came in here with my mom. I wasn't really sure what I was looking for."

That was in April. Baker says she paid an $800 deposit to the store. But now, that excitement is gone.

"Really upset, thinking that I won't get my dress after I put a deposit down for it," said Baker.

The sign on the front door of Bella Vista and the next-door bakery says they're closed for inventory, but this is a copy of the letter Baker says she received from Bella Vista. The letter mentions health concerns, and a second page includes pictures of dead rats said to be take inside the store.

On the back of the letter is a message saying the owners "didn't want any drama," and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

"They didn't want drama, but they were sending pictures of rats," said Baker. "That was kinda creating drama."

Another bride says she's tried calling, emailing, Facebooking, and mailing the owners of the shop, and hasn't heard anything back.

We went looking for the owner of Bella Vista, Lawrence (Ren) Judice.

We tried to find ways to contact Judice. At one home address we found, no one was home. We later discovered Judice sold that home several months ago. As for phone calls, we called a number associated with the business, but the voicemail box was full.

While we couldn't find the owner, what we did find is some insight into why the doors to the stores might be closing. Judice faced a breach of contract suit, in which Heathwood Hall Episcopal School sued for more than $27,000. We found an action filed in the suit for nulla bona -- a legal term declaring there is no money to pay the judgment.

For Baker, she just wants the dress she picked out for her wedding day. However, she wants to know that the dress will show up when she pays the rest of her money. She says if Bella Vista can't promise that, she wants her money back.

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