A suddenly shuttered reception hall in northwest Harris County has caused problems for people who planned to have weddings, retirement parties and other special occasions at the facility.
Events with Elegance, located at 20320 Northwest Freeway, closed in mid-July without notice, customers told Local 2 Investigates.
"I don't know if this was her plan. I really don't know what to think," Melanie Garcia said.
Garcia paid $3,794.67 to have her daughter's Sweet 16 party at the venue. She learned through a friend that Events with Elegance had been closed.
Garcia and others told Local 2 Investigates that they have made repeated attempts through email and phone calls to track down the owner of the business for refunds, with no luck.
A form letter emailed to some clients by the registered owner, Genita Martin-Mehlhorn, urges customers to "be patient."
"I don't think it takes a long time to get a money order and mail it back to someone," Ana Rubio said.
Rubio had planned to hold her daughter's quinceanera at Events with Elegance in October. She said she is now scrambling to find an alternative, and with very limited funds after losing a $900 deposit.
Local 2 Investigates tried to reach Martin-Mehlhorn by phone, by email and by her listed addresses without luck for days. Late last week, Martin-Mehlhorn contacted Local 2 Investigates via email.
"We have been working diligently to get the customers placed at a different hall. We have every intention on getting the customers refunded. We just ask for patience at this time," part of the message read.
The full text of her letter is at the end of this story.
The Better Business Bureau suggests paying for such events with a credit card rather than cash or check, that way if trouble arises, customers can dispute the charge. Also, try to avoid paying in full before the day of the event.
The Better Business Bureau also recommends checking their website for customer complaints to find reputable vendors. In this case, consumers would not have seen negative reviews. However, since the closure, the Better Business Bureau has "several unanswered complaints on file."
Letter from Genita Martin-Mehlhorn:
"How are you this evening. I decided to go ahead and respond. This has been a very trying time right now for me. I expected some unhappy people at me, but not my family. I pray that now you will respect me and my family and give us some space. I don't want this around my children, please.
"Events With Elegance made a decision to close it's doors. Everyone was notified with a formal letter. As expected several were upset. We have been working diligently to get the customers placed at a different hall. We have every intention on getting the customers refunded. We just ask for patience at this time. I know some customers wont understand that as they are very upset, but again it was a business decision to do so not personal.
"I have tried not to make this personal, but it has also affected my family. I put my all into the business including my time. Something i had to sacrifice from my children. So making this decision has been the hardest one for me. Although i knew some people would be angry whether we chose to close the doors now or in 10 years, it hurt me to see how people have made me look. I am not heartless and understand how this had inconvenienced those. But again it was a business decision not a personal one."