Churches across the country out thousands after Rocky Mount furniture store closes

Church Furniture Store closed last week

By Rachel Lucas - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROCKY MOUNT - Churches across the country are waiting on tens of thousands of dollars worth of refunds they fear may never happen. The Church Furniture Store in Rocky Mount closed unexpectedly last week, leaving orders unfilled and congregations out of money.

10 News was contacted by a Beverly Walters, a member of Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ in Anahuac, Texas in December about thousands of dollars her congregation was owed. After 10 News began looking into her claims, it was clear that she was not alone.

When the church furniture store closed last week, not only did the town lose a 28-year-old business, churches and businesses across the country lost tens of thousands of dollars.

"It hurts me that I'm having to fight for something that we paid for… that I allowed them to take out of our bank account,” Walters said.

An ordeal especially painful for Walters because not only did she and her husband lose their home to Hurricane Harvey, their church was destroyed as well. As devastating as that was, Walters said the church received money from Samaritan's Purse to help the congregation rebuild.

Now, 18-months later they are facing a new battle; this time over a purchase they have yet to receive. 

“We ordered the furniture on April, 24. They promised the furniture to us within 12 to 16 weeks,” Walters said.

According to Walters they paid Church Furniture Store nearly $23,000, and they only have an empty church to show for it. Although they did receive some of their order which included a baptismal pool, they are still waiting on chairs and a nearly $16,000 refund they have yet to receive. 

10 News called Church Furniture Store in late December. An employee there told 10 News they agreed on a refund and that Walters was a ‘disgruntled employee.’ 10 News went in person to the store in January to ask about Walters claims and were told by a manager they had worked out a refund plan.

Walters said that isn’t the case.

“No ma'am the have not worked out a refund plan,” Walters said. Walters shared a voicemail left to her by owner Sam Rakes.

"We hope to have a complete check filled out for you all no later than next week. We are urgently working on this,” Rakes said in that voicemail.

10 News spoke to Rakes on the phone, but he said his attorney Stephen Dunn should be contacted for a statement. According to Dunn’s website, he specializes in bankruptcy. 10 News reached out to Dunn’s office multiple times via phone and email, but have yet to receive a response or official statement.

A day after 10 News spoke to Rakes, the business permanently closed. Their website and social media pages were also taken down.

"And you {Sam Rakes} do people, hurricane victims like this and you know we aren't the only ones,” Walters said during her interview in a message to the owner.

Walter’s knows she isn’t the only one because she has met other congregations across the country who claim they are experiencing the same situation. 

10 News found three more churches, and two businesses across the country in the same situation in states that include Arizona, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.
     
According to court records, there is a pending lawsuit for debt in franklin county court against Church Furniture Store filed by Environmental Options Inc. 

10 News also checked with the Better Business Bureau. In December, when 10 News first checked the businesses’ rating, Church Furniture was accredited with an “A+” rating.

Now, that rating is gone, and an alert is listed where customers can file a complaint with the Virginia Attorney's General.

The Virginia Attorney’s General Office confirms they have received one complaint about the business, but encourage other churches have not received their money back from the business to file a complaint with their office.

"I just hope out of the goodness of their heart they give us back their money,” Walters said.

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