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Consignment store items to be returned

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Merchant abandons store, leaving building owner to deal those whose merchandise is left behind.

By April Wright, Reporter

Nearly 150 frustrated vendors are waiting to get their money and merchandise that was up for sale at Alice's Fine Consign, located at 117 E. Grayson St. in downtown Galax, after the owners of the business closed up shop without notice.
Now, it's up to the owner of the building, Devan Freeman, to sort through the mess that was left behind by merchants and their step-daughter and her friend that took over management of the store in May.
Alice's has been located in downtown Galax for a year.

Freeman said today, Friday, from 2-7 p.m., he will open Alice's Fine Consign to vendors to allow them to come in and pick up their items, or consigners can leave their name and number on the door of the shop and Freeman will contact them. Vendors must show identification and the customer number that was provided to them.
The shop owners closed in June without contacting Freeman, or any of the vendors, he said.
The merchants, he said, were behind on rent, paying only part of June.
In June, notes on the door of Alice's Fine Consign  read, “we want our money and our items.”  Freeman said as he walked through the store, he noticed that the notes were no longer on the door and had been moved to the counter, and the computer and some of the store owners' belongings were gone.
He tried contacting their cell and home phones, but they had already been disconnected. He got the home address for the merchants, but found that their home had been foreclosed on and they had relocated to somewhere in North Carolina.
A few days ago, Freeman, who has owned the building for almost nine years, said he was out near his building when he saw the shop's manager packing up items from the store. She had brought with her a truck, a trailer and three guys to help load the items.
Realizing that the manager apparently intended to take the items without contacting the vendors, Freeman called the police. Police ordered her to unload the packed items and leave everything.
“She tried to explain that all the stuff was hers,” said Freeman. “She grabbed a contract that was signed by the vendors that said after items are under consignment for 90 days, they belong to Alice's.”
Since then, Freeman has declared the shop abandoned, as advised by the city attorney.
The door has been covered with about 30 sticky notes, said Freeman, and the shop's answering machine was filled with 35 messages from people wanting their items back. Freeman said two vendors have even stopped by his house.
Freeman said he has had to delay his vacation a couple of times due to this issue, and said he may have to resort to taking the items to Willing Partners or Goodwill.
“I can't let this continue to drag out forever,” said Freeman, who plans to go on vacation next week.
When he returns on Aug. 3 or 4, he said he will have to make arrangements for one of the thrift shops to pick up the items, or if people leave their name and number on the door of Alice's, items will be returned. “It's going to be a headache to figure this all out.”
Galax Police Chief Rick Clark said he has been working with Freeman to get it all straightened out.
If the vendors have proof that their items were not returned or money was not received, criminal action can be taken, said Clark.