Customers of a Palo Alto tailoring business say they have been trying to get their clothing back for nearly three years, but the doors of Palo Alto Tailoring remain tightly shut, leaving them staring longingly through the glass doors.
The little white stucco shop with blue lettering at 3700 El Camino Real and Barron Avenue closed in summer 2017, three customers told the Weekly. But despite their notes on and under the door, calls to the business owner and threats of a lawsuit, shop owner Sep Hines has not given their clothing back, they said.
The shop was a fixture in the Barron Park neighborhood for nearly 20 years. The three customers, two of whom patronized the business for nearly all of that time, said they are baffled by the mystery of why they can't get their clothing and drapery. Frustrated by the lack of communication, they are now considering small claims lawsuits, they said.
Alexis Davis had frequented Palo Alto Tailoring since 1999, she said.
"I even had a set of curtains hemmed in about 2005. When these got old and in need of replacement, I dropped off two sets of curtains in August 2016: a set of sheers and a set of silk curtains from Pottery Barn," she said in an email to the Weekly.
Hines never notified her that her curtains were done, however. On several occasions, Davis stopped to inquire about her curtains, she said.
"The first time (Sep) needed clarification on what needed to be done — despite me telling her when I dropped them off and giving her my old curtain for measurement. Then she was mostly closed, but I managed to find her open about a year later (in August 2017), when I picked up my sheers. I have never recovered my very expensive silk blackout curtains from her," Davis said.
The phone number listed on the ticket went to a fax machine. Beginning in summer 2018, Davis started to drop off notes at the store. She called Palo Alto Police Department, which said it was a civil matter and declined to help. She called the Better Business Bureau, which said they couldn't help. She sought information from Santa Clara County through the store's fictitious business name license and found the business was listed at what appeared to be an abandoned home in Los Altos.
Davis sent letters to the Los Altos address and dropped off letters at the storefront. Her certified letters were returned. Finally, Hines contacted Davis in August 2018 after receiving a letter Davis had placed under the store's door threatening to sue Hines.
"She called and apologized profusely, said she had been through a lot and promised that her shop was going to re-open in September 2018. As she is a small-business owner, I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and said 'OK, I'll wait to pick them up when your store re-opens. But that never happened," Davis said.
She created a Yahoo email account and posted a message on the business door asking if anyone wanted to join her in her efforts to reclaim goods. That's how she found Monica Cappuccini and Wendy Harrison, other customers who were working through their own process to get their items back by leaving notes at the storefront, she said.
Davis said she doesn't know how many other people might also be waiting for their items.
"Looking through the windows, there are all sorts of items left abandoned in the store," Davis said.
Cappuccini, who also was a customer from the beginning, said she lives nearby the tailoring shop and noticed right away when the store closed. There was no message on the door. Three of her favorite T-shirts are locked inside.
After the initial closure, Hines reopened after about six months and then promptly closed for good three weeks later — before Cappuccini had a chance to pick up her shirts, which Hines had promised to find, she said. She left many notes for Hines and called the business until the line was disconnected, she said.
Harrison, a customer for four years, had a similar experience. Her jacket and a dress remain inside the shop.
"I called the number, but it became disconnected. I've left messages in writing, either taped to the door or slipped through the crack under it about every two weeks since July 2017," she said in an email.
On Nov. 22, 2019, Harrison sent a letter by certified mail explaining her intent to sue in Santa Clara County Small Claims Court.
"An attempt to deliver the letter was made twice and then returned to me as undeliverable. I also put a copy of the letter under the door, so I believe she knows of my intent to sue," she said.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Barry Hines, Sep Hines' husband, said that he relayed a request for comment to his wife. He said she didn't want to return the Weekly's call but that she said something might happen in early March. She has had different plans regarding the shop, but he doesn't know what they might be. In March, she might find a solution, he added.
A call to the property owner, KSS Investment LLC, was not immediately returned.