Despite promises that he would make things right, a Baltimore venue manager has continued to leave brides and grooms in the lurch behind a trail of lawsuits, bad checks and canceled events, according to clients and court documents.
Customers of Alex Fox, who booked weddings and receptions at two Baltimore venues under the name Church and Company, say he has stopped responding to them. Some maintain they did not get what they had contracted for, and others’ events will not go off as planned after the owner of the venues severed her relationship with Fox.
Fox did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Baltimore Sun.
“We just stopped hearing from Alex,” said Kristen Rigney, an environmental scientist living in Charles Village who had signed with Church and Company for a wedding over Memorial Day weekend 2018.
The couple said they asked for their $3,100 deposit back when questions arose about the capacity of the venue they had chosen, a former Pratt Library branch on Light Street in Federal Hill. She and her fiancee received a refund through their credit card company, Rigney said, but have received notice that Fox is disputing that refund.
Last week, the owner of the Federal Hill location took back control of the building and terminated her relationship with Fox, saying he had not paid rent in two months. She is now looking for a new tenant for the building, and said contracts signed with Fox will not be honored.
“This has been a horror show. I feel for the people,” said Mimi Roeder Vaughan.
She also owns an old church on Falls Road in Hampden, where Fox was not a tenant, but Church and Company booked events for the space. “If I had any idea that he was taking people’s money, I would have called him on it, would have called the police.”
Vaughan said she saw Fox earlier this month, but has not been able to collect the money owed her.
“I have 20 properties,” she said, “and I’ve never had this problem.”
No events will be held at the former church this year, Vaughan said. A commercial venture operating out of the church building’s first floor is not affected.
At least two Church and Company clients have filed lawsuits against the company in Baltimore City District Court. In a case scheduled for Wednesday, Joseph Wantz and Elizabeth McAllen of Hyattsvile are seeking $5,000, which includes reimbursement of an $800 deposit made in January 2017 for a wedding scheduled for last month in Federal Hill and $517.25 for invitations they sent out for the event the couple were forced to cancel.
At the time they made the deposit, according to court documents, “Mr. Fox agreed that renovations were near completion and crucial permits … would be provided. None of this occurred.”
Fox agreed to refund the money, according to the court filings, but on the day the refund was supposed to happen, “he was a no show and has been unreachable by phone or email.”
In a second case, scheduled for trial Tuesday, Jesse Schwartzman of Baltimore is seeking $4,105, including $3,105 paid in August 2017 for a planned July 2018 wedding. “The defendant has breached the contract in several material respects,” according to court documents.
Fox did not have a lawyer listed in online court records.
About a half-dozen Church and Company clients interviewed for this article agreed they have not heard from Fox in weeks. In October, however, shortly after the creation of a Facebook page for people who felt they had been wronged by Church and Company, Fox said he was sorry that so many customers were dissatisfied with his response to their concerns. He admitted that at least one couple had to change their wedding plans because of problems with one of his venues and promised that things would get better. He attributed Church and Company's problems to a split with a former business partner and a hospital stay.
“We’re going to move forward and get everything back on track,” he said at the time.
But that hasn’t been how things have played out, clients say. More than a dozen individuals and couples have taken to the “Church and Company Support Group” page on Facebook to detail their problems with Fox and his company. The stories include not being able to reach him, finding their chosen venues in disarray, refunds not being issued as promised, checks not clearing and venues switched at the last minute.
“Nobody can get a hold of him,” says Jeff Spindler, who said he has received two checks from Fox, neither of which cleared his bank. He and his fiancee had their wedding scheduled for October 2017, but said they were forced to find a new venue at the last minute after being unable to reach Fox in the days before their wedding and found their chosen venue, the former library on Light Street, in disarray. They are seeking a $2,200 refund, including their $1,500 deposit plus the cost of items they purchased for the venue, Spindler said.
Interviewed by The Sun in October, Fox promised to give Spindler his money back and address other complaints on a case-by-case basis.
Brooke Travers and her fiance paid Church and Company $2,900 in March 2017 to reserve the old library for their November 2018 wedding, she says. As recently as late December, she said, they were reassured the venue would be available. But with events at the library now canceled and Fox not staying in touch, they are desperately seeking their money back.
“I’m not exactly sure what will happen,” said Travers, who lives in Greektown and works as an internship placement manager for a nonprofit. “We were working with a $10,000 all-in budget for everything. … We probably won’t be able to get married this year, because we don’t have that money.”
Representatives of several area wedding venues have reached out to couples who had booked with Church and Company, in some cases offering their services at the last minute and at reduced prices.
“This gives everybody in our industry a bad name and makes everybody skittish,” says David Egan, owner of Chase Court in Midtown-Belvedere. “This guy has gotten people frightened.”
Hampden residents Melanie Playdon and her husband, Jeremy, signed on with Church and Company in December, just after they were married; the couple was planning to celebrate their nuptials with friends and family in April. They signed a contract for the old church in Hampden, she said, and paid Fox a $300 deposit.
“As soon as I paid the deposit, he just disappeared,” said Playdon, who has since made plans to have their event elsewhere. “I think we all realize that no one’s getting their money back and no one’s having their wedding there. … For me, it’s just become a matter of making sure that he’s not doing this to anyone else.”