DIGGING DEEPER: Local wholesale florist out thousands after Empyrean closure

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 6:30 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Gassafy Wholesale Florist has been in business for around 60 years and it’s a family affair.

“My sister works here, my niece works here, my mom works here. I think that’s everybody,” one of the owners Jeff Stoppenhagen said.

Stoppenhagen and his warehouse manager Ben Ault say they’ve worked with many loyal customers in the Fort Wayne so their experience with Empyrean Events and Catering came as a shock.

“I noticed a little bit of a change in maybe like July or August little bit slower pay, slower pay, slower pay. And promises were made from Empyrean ‘no we’re working on it, we’re working on it, we’re working on it we’re just trying to do what’s best for customers’ and we’re like okay not a problem,” Stoppenhagen said.

Stoppenhagen says Gassafy provided Empryean with flowers for many upcoming weddings and events. They’ve worked with them on and off throughout the years. He says he continually reached out for payment on different orders and eventually never heard anything back.

“We would get a check, put it in, a check would clear a check wouldn’t clear. And she was like ‘okay I’ll send another check to make up for it.’ Finally like the last two it was like ‘okay i’ll have payment for it.’ Have payment, deliver the products, put the checks in, checks were no good and then no communication,” Stoppenhagen said.

Then they heard whispers about the business closing their doors but they were never contacted by the owner Renee Miner herself.

READ MORE: Local event center closes unexpectedly, leaves some customers out thousands of dollars

“You hear rumors about things and then we had another customer that said ‘hey I’m taking over all these weddings that are coming these people are closing’, and that’s how we found out because somebody else said I’m taking over I’m probably gonna hire some of their employees,” Ault said.

Ault says he wishes there was some kind of communication from them because he says they would’ve tried to make it work.

“We’ve been doing business with so many florists for so long you build a relationship with them and so you know them by name, you know their kids names and so you just kind of build that relationship. So you don’t want to straight cut somebody off you wanna kinda say ‘hey we’ve been doing business for a long time, let’s work something out’,” Ault said.

The men say they have yet to get their money back or hear anything from Miner, but losing the money is not what upsets them the most.

“Honestly it’s more just the trust factor so you always wanna think that you can trust customers but now that trust factor gets taken down a couple of notches so at the same time you may have customers that you may let float a little longer and now you have to tighten it up a bit because you realize things will happen real quick,” Stoppenhagen said.

They say they’re loss in nothing compared to those brides and grooms whose perfect wedding day was ruined.

“I can’t imagine being in a position of getting married and having the happiest day of my life and all of sudden ‘no we took your money and you have no event place and no florals,” Stoppenhagen said.

They say they know they’re may be other businesses that have yet to come forward who’ve had this exact same experience and they want them to know they’re not alone.

“It may seem like when something like this happens to you that how did I fall for this or how did I not see this coming. We’ve been in business for 60 years and same thing happened to us,” Stoppenhagen said.

“If we’re one vendor there’s gonna be other vendors, there’s food suppliers, there’s people that they work with. They’ve done it to a lot of people,” Ault said.

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