Kara Gardner never thought she'd find herself a few weeks from her wedding day with an incomplete dress.
But Tuesday morning, she got word from La Bella Sposa bridal shop in south Charlotte that it was closing, permanently – and the dress she's to wear at her June 28 wedding still needed alterations.
So Gardner and about a dozen other bewildered brides dashed around the shop Tuesday afternoon grabbing free dresses, shoes and veils to make up for the money – and in some cases, the dresses – they lost when La Bella Sposa's owners went into foreclosure.
Gardner, a 23-year-old bride-to-be from Rock Hill, wouldn't say how much she paid for her dress. But her mother, De-De, said it was more than they had originally planned to spend – and now they'll have to pay another seamstress to alter it. Brides said most of the wedding dresses in the store ranged from $2,000 to $6,000.
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A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer had been hired by the shop to stand guard outside.
Foreclosure papers were filed May 21 against Shannon and Brian Starcher, who are listed as the store's owners, in Union County, court records show. The case has not been decided. It's not clear whether the foreclosure filing involves the couple's home or another property.
The Starchers' situation left some brides without the dream dresses they say they paid for months ago – but which they say were never ordered by La Bella Sposa. One bride said that, when she picked up what was supposed to be her custom-made, $4,500 dress, she got an already-worn look-alike.
Bride Elizabeth Lea, 24, of Charlotte has her dress but is out seven bridesmaids dresses she paid for at the shop. The dresses, Lea said, were never ordered.
She gets married Aug. 30.
“Honestly, I'm not as stressed out as much as disappointed,” she said. “I'm really disappointed and kind of feel cheated.”
Lea hasn't decided how to replace the dresses. Very few bridesmaids dresses at the shop Tuesday matched – let alone fit seven women.
The brides-to-be who showed up Tuesday at La Bella Sposa, at the corner of N.C. 51 and Carmel Road, were snatching dresses and accessories they said didn't fit – but that they could sell online to recoup their losses.
That was Kara Gardner's plan Tuesday.
“Well, this is heavy, it must be expensive,” she said picking a beaded white wedding dress off a nearly empty rack.
“Maybe your sister can wear it. Someday,” her mom quipped.
Gardner's father, Lee, said this was the wrong time for such a change in plans.
“It's to that point where the little things are upsetting,” he said. “This is not a little thing.”
Records show a tax lien against La Bella Sposa this year. According to court records, the U.S. Department of the Treasury was granted what it wanted last month. The amount owed was listed as $1,838.
Phone calls to a number listed for the Starchers were not immediately returned Tuesday. No one answered at Shannon Starcher's line at work or at the main store number, and the voice mailboxes were full Tuesday afternoon.
Staff writer Kirsten Valle and staff researcher Sara Klemmer contributed.