BURLINGTON, N.C. -- A Burlington kitchen remodeling company closed its doors, leaving several customers with unfinished work.
FOX8 started investigating American Kitchen after getting calls from contractors who say they are owed thousands of dollars for work completed months ago.
Reporter Carter Coyle also spoke with at least eight customers of American Kitchen who all say their kitchens are incomplete despite paying for the remodeling work months ago.
Many customers were distraught to learn the company laid off its employees last week and locked the doors to the office on Tucker Street in Burlington. Work vans were parked in the back of the building. Paperwork was still stacked up inside. No one was at the facility Tuesday.
FOX8 also attempted to reach the company's president, Tyler Sheets, through phone and email, but no one returned our calls.
Sheila and Lewis Clark of Greensboro have been dealing with the company since September of 2013.
Their contracts with American Kitchen show more than $32,000 worth of initial costs. They paid thousands more for flooring and other upgrades and estimate they've spent about $41,000 total.
The kitchen is still in shambles.
"I have no electricity in the kitchen at all. We have no water; the appliances are brand new we bought a year ago. The [appliances'] warranty runs out next week and they're still sitting in my living room," Sheila explained.
The Clarks used their retirement money to redo their kitchen and financed part of the project through GreenSky, a financing company American Kitchen set them up with. They are still paying $600 a month but say no one has worked on the project for months.
"We just wanted, since my husband actually had prostate cancer, we're trying to get rid of stress and get a retirement place with no maintenance. Which is why we picked this one," she said of their new condo. "But the stress is killing us," she added through tears. "We pay big money every month to not have a kitchen."
American Kitchen was accredited with the Better Business Bureau and had an "A" rating until last week.
Michael Henson with BBB of Central North Carolina said they pulled the company's rating and put American Kitchen under review while they investigate what happened.
"The accreditation is great and it goes a long way, but unfortunately the accreditation doesn't do anything from saving you from going out of business," Henson said. "They had demonstrated they were a legitimately operating business worthy of accreditation and unfortunately it just seems as though they ran out of steam and had to close their doors."
Henson said he has not had any luck reaching American Kitchen's president or complaint contact.
"We hope to be able to track them down and figure out what's going on because ultimately if they have gone out of business, then they need to file bankruptcy and go through the proper legal procedures to make sure these people have some recourse and some ability to try to recover what they can."
The BBB has gotten seven complaints from customers with unfinished kitchens since last Thursday. He said they expect more to come in.
"From what we've seen so far, we don't see anything fraudulent or any attempt for this possibly have been a scam," Henson added.
But customers' only recourse is through the court system now, he said.
Henson advises customers with unfinished work to file a complaint with the BBB at bbb.org/complaints.
BBB will then notify customers if and when bankruptcy proceedings begin. He says customers may be able to get involved with the bankruptcy action to get some of their money back.
He said customers could also hire their own lawyers to pursue civil court action or a class action lawsuit.
"Ultimately the resolution for these folks is going to come through the courts at this point," Henson explained.
The Attorney General's Office tells FOX8 they are also looking into complaints about American Kitchen.
Customers can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office: http://www.ncdoj.gov/consumer/
Contractors who are still owed money from American Kitchen cannot file a complaint with the BBB. They have the option of getting private collectors involved and/or hiring an attorney to pursue civil action.
Employees who are still owed money from American Kitchen can file a complaint with the Department of Labor: