Students Reunite Brides and Bridesmaids with Dresses After Chain Goes Bankrupt

Jessica Gabel Cino and bankruptcy students

Associate Dean Jessica Gabel Cino (left) and her bankruptcy students helped find one bride’s missing dress then boxed it up for her to take home so her fiancé won’t see it.

Saying “yes to the dress,” is one of the most memorable and exciting parts of wedding planning. However, when the bridal chain Alfred Angelo abruptly closed its 60 stores after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July, thousands of brides panicked. Managers posted “Store Closed” signs and listed bankruptcy lawyer Patricia Ann Redmond’s email address to contact with questions.

Relief followed for several local brides and bridesmaids when Georgia State Law students and Jessica Cino, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of law, opened the Alfred Angelo store in Dunwoody on Aug. 12, and distributed items the women had ordered for their big day.

Redmond, a business restructuring shareholder of Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson PA, was Cino’s bankruptcy professor and mentor at University of Miami School of Law. She contacted the associate dean for help.

“Trish is trying to help brides around the country get their dresses and other bridal items. The Atlanta store needed help because employees left the day the store closed without getting purchased orders to customers,” Cino said. “My husband and I went into the store, took inventory of everything we could find, and then matched it up to invoices so that Trish and her team could contact the brides and bridesmaids.”

Saturday, Aug. 12

Cino and her husband, Ryan, were able to match orders to nearly 30 people. From 10 a.m. to noon, they and eight students opened the store to distribute the items to brides and bridesmaids lined up outside.

Tiffany Clark drove from Birmingham, Ala., with her mother to pick up her dress. Her wedding is Friday, Oct. 13, and she learned of Alfred Angelo’s closing two weeks after her wedding venue burned down.

“I expected a bit of bad luck, given the wedding date, but nothing like this,” Clark said. “We were scrambling to find a new location when I learned I may not have a dress that we’d already paid for.”

Clark is hopeful the worst is behind her. She and her mother were incredibly thankful that Cino and the students volunteered to help.

“It’s amazing. I’m grateful for every person here. I really am,” Clark said.

Her mother added through tears, “It feels great. I’m relieved.”

Jason Drouyor (J.D. ’18) was stationed at the door, checking IDs and cross-referencing names with the list of who the bankruptcy team contacted. He observed the look of worry and frustration many had before entering the store.

“They received an email letting them know they had merchandise at the store, but they don’t know what’s here. It could be their dress or just a veil,” he said. “When they leave with their dresses, they are so happy.”

As a relative of a bride left the store, she touched Drouyor on the arm and said, “Bless you.”

“I wasn’t expecting to be a part of something like this when I agreed to volunteer,” he said. “It’s really amazing and an awesome opportunity for us as students to see what happens during a bankruptcy filing and how to make the best of a bad situation.”

Stephanie Songaila (J.D. ’18) volunteered because she genuinely felt bad for these women and wanted to help.

“The brides and bridesmaids spent time picking out their dresses and paid for them. Then, they were stuck with no recourse,” she said. “Everyone who came to the store Saturday was so appreciative. It was great to be able to help them after such a stressful event.”

Finding Missing Dress

Students when above and beyond to help Kia Midy, whose wedding is Nov. 11. She was hoping to pick up her dress, but the only item at the store was a dress accessory she ordered. Her father and fiancé waited outside, feeling a bit frantic.

“She visited the store five times and finally found the perfect dress, which we paid for,” Midy’s father said. “I heard about the store closing on the news, and we were incredibly disappointed. Kia was in tears, and my wife was so stressed that she got sick. I don’t know what we’ll do if they don’t have a dress for her.”

The students sprang into action to help Midy. She had a picture of the dress on her phone, so they scoured the racks to find a dress like the one she initially said yes to – and they did. Upon hearing the news, Midy’s father felt relieved and thankful.

“I applaud [the students and Cino] for doing this. With bankruptcies, there’s not much you can do, but they’re going out of their way to help us, and they don’t have to,” he said. “I don’t know what would happen if they weren’t here. Kudos to them.”

Learning Experience

Cino invited students to volunteer, knowing it would be a valuable learning experience.

“When you’re the lawyer, sometimes you need to do more than just legal work. Matching dresses to receipts doesn’t seem like legal work to most, but it’s work that matters to the brides and bridesmaids who need their items,” Cino said. “This is a good opportunity to step up and help people who really don’t have much recourse. Even if they somehow got money back from the bankruptcy – never a guarantee – what they really need is a dress, veil, etc. We’re not getting paid to do this, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Midy didn’t want her fiancé to see the dress, so the team packed it up in a box and carried it out the door. The expression on the father-of-the-bride’s face as he followed the students to his car captured the sentiment of the day. Worry turned to relief, and he grinned from ear-to-ear.

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