BATH — The owners of Gediman’s Appliance — which abruptly closed in mid-September after 86 years in business, leaving dozens of customers without goods and services already paid for — will file for bankruptcy, the state attorney general’s office confirmed Wednesday.
An attorney retained by Peter and Serene Gagnon of Poland specifically for the bankruptcy proceedings contacted complaint examiner Martha Currier of the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division to inform her that the owners planned to file bankruptcy. She did not provide information on whether the bankruptcy filing would be to dissolve or reorganize the business.
Currier then contacted about 40 customers who since Sept. 15 have told the attorney general’s office that Gediman’s owed them appliances, repairs, or, at the very least, their money back, Currier said.
“These are people who are in the process of building a house and purchased all their appliances — a stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, dryer — from Gediman’s,” Currier said Wednesday. “Add that up and you’re looking at $4,000, $5,000, $6,000 — a lot of money. But then [there’s the] single parent who needs a dishwasher, and for them, $400 is a lot of money.”
Customers who paid for goods and services by credit card can contact their credit card company to reverse the charge, Currier said. But those who paid with debit cards, cash or checks aren’t so lucky.
In a letter Tuesday, Currier wrote that because secured creditors — banks and businesses — are considered first to receive redress in a bankruptcy, “It is unlikely you will receive a full refund given the limited resources available after the secured creditors receive their funds.”
“I wanted to remain optimistic in the letter because it’s entirely possible there could be money left over after the secured creditors [are paid],” Currier said by phone Wednesday. “That being said, most of the time there’s no money left over for unsecured creditors.”
Phone calls to Gediman’s Bath and Lewiston stores were not answered on Wednesday.
Currier said she could neither confirm nor deny an investigation by the attorney general’s office into any potential wrongdoing by the Gagnons. Any potential investigation would be conducted separately from the bankruptcy proceedings, she said.
Currier encouraged any customer who had a recent transaction with Gediman’s to file a proof of claim through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Maine.
“The attorney general wants to protect the consumers of Maine,” she said. “The more we hear from customers about transactions with Gediman’s, the clearer the picture will be.”
Gediman’s Appliance is not the only longtime business to close recently in Bath. The Intown Shop, at the corner of Front and Centre streets, shut its doors within the past few weeks, and R.M. Tate, a retail store also on Centre Street, was granted a going-out-of-business license by city officials on Oct. 1.
But Carolyn Lockwood of Main Street Bath, a downtown advocacy agency, said closures of The Intown Shop and R.M. Tate’s were due to the owners’ retirements. She said Bath’s downtown is thriving — driven in part by other longtime businesses like Wilson’s Drug Store as well as by new shops such as J’Adore Consignment on north Front Street — an area Lockwood referred to as “NoFro.”
The loss of three businesses only creates “opportunities for the next generation,” she said. “Yes, it’s sad to see them go, but things evolve. Someone was in my office yesterday extremely interested in a space, and this person was not the first to talk to me about that space. There’s so much going on.”