A Trio of Closings
Dogma Catmantoo, Naked Furniture and Hot Hydro
by Sally Mitani
Alice Liberson plans to close her Kerrytown-area store for the soigne dog or cat, Dogma Catmantoo, sometime in April. Liberson says she turned sixty last year, and wants to "retire, take classes. This is the longest I've ever done anything. I'm usually a five-to-seven-year guy, and I've been doing this for over twelve years."
"I have wonderful landlords. You hear about all these landlords raising rent. They have been the fairest people in the world. Can you put in a word for them? Peter and Olga Bilakos."
In late February, Diana Slaughter emailed asking if Naked Furniture had closed. She was waiting for $500 worth of prepaid merchandise and said that when she tried to call, "the phone rings, and the voice mailbox is full." Only last year, Naked Furniture moved a block east on Washtenaw and laid out its grand plan to move upmarket as well as up the street. Instead of unfinished pine furniture, the store's owner, Ron LaFleur, was emphasizing custom-finished hardwood.
Thanks to Slaughter's tip, we caught what seemed to be the end of a closeout sale, with large banners screaming: "Hurry. Time is short. All must go." But though the lights were on, the store's door was locked, and its website had been taken offline.
"I'm not an attorney," wrote Slaughter, a cataloguer at the U-M Law Library, in a follow-up, "but one does pick up a little knowledge of the law." She smelled a bankruptcy and passed on the phone number for the Eastern Michigan Bankruptcy court. Her suspicions were confirmed by the court clerk, who said that Ron LaFleur filed personal bankruptcy on February 14. (It seems that LaFleur's Naked Furniture was not incorporated, but he was doing business under the names Naked Furniture and Make It Furniture.)
Last year, LaFleur had alluded to some complex legal proceedings that had accompanied the breakup of the former Naked Furniture franchise chain, in which some of the franchises had taken their stores private.
There are several Naked Furniture stores in Michigan, but none are related to this one.
Hot Hydro on Jackson also closed. Joe Collins, who owns another Hot Hydro store in Toledo, opened this one in 2009. Collins didn't return calls to his Toledo store. Kai Brodersen, who manages the Cultivation Station, the last hydroponic store standing on Jackson (there were at one time three--Cultivation Station is near the 1-94 overpass), says, "It's sad to see the competition close up, but we're weathering the storm." The Cultivation Station has seven stores across Michigan.
[Originally published in April, 2014.]