SARASOTA (WWSB) - There’s new information on a story ABC7 first reported Wednesday evening.
This is a consumer warning about a Sarasota kitchen remodeling company that customers said completed shoddy work or took their deposit and never did any work at all.
Since the initial story aired, many more people have come forward with their own similar experiences.
So how can the average consumer stop this from happening to them?
Before it went out of business, Exclusive Kitchens and More was owned by a man named Alex Gardner.
But additional customers and a former employee said they had similar bad experiences with the owner before Gardner, a man named Brian Jarvis.
Mary Fitzgerald was one of the last customers of Exclusive Kitchens under Jarvis' management before she was told he left the company.
“I mean you walked in and you were just like what the heck happened in here,” said Fitzgerald of her first reaction when she saw the work Exclusive Kitchens and More had done to her home.
She signed a contract with them back in October of 2016, but she said it took crews until May of 2017 to start the work.
“They just kept saying they weren’t able to get there, they had a lot of jobs,” Fitzgerald explained.
She added that they only started after she nearly paid for the job in full.
“$57,917.88," Fitzgerald said. "And that included two guest bathrooms, the master bath and the kitchen.”
But as soon as the work began, she said so did the endless mistakes.
“There were so many things that were so wrong," she explained. "They over-grouted, the tiles were crooked, and then one of them decided to start tiling up the side of my wall. It was just like, it was so bizarre.”
The work was so bad, she obtained a lawyer to intervene.
“He wrote the letter July 17th and right after that is when Bryan Jarvis got in contact with me,” Fitzgerald said.
Jarvis was the owner of Exclusive Kitchens at that time.
He promised her they would fix the guest bathrooms that were ruined, but she told him she didn’t want them to do her master bathroom anymore.
When she called in January to get her refund, she said, “they informed me that Brian was no longer involved with Exclusive Kitchens and More and I would have to deal with Alex. So I called and I called and I called and no answer. I left messages after message after message.”
To this day - no answer and no money.
“Anything in the construction world is a big problem, consumers are always struggling with finding a good, quality contractor they can trust,” said Bryan Oglesby, director of public relations and outreach for the Better Business Bureau.
The good thing is, the BBB said there are many quality contractors in the community, consumers just have to do their research.
“Get bids from at least three contractors," Oglesby said. "Don’t just go with the first one that gave you a bid and it looks great. Stop for a minute, research them at Better Business Bureau at bbb.org, go to the State of Florida. Call your local county contractor licensing and just see what other people are saying about these companies.”
Consumers can also ask the company for current, recent customers to get a sense of what’s happening now with the business.
They might be surprised by what they hear.
“I definitely would not go into a contract like this ever again,” Fitzgerald said.
Perhaps the biggest take away, the BBB said never give more than a 10 percent down payment.
After that, the BBB recommends customers pay in staggers, meaning another 10 percent halfway through the job and then another 10 percent when the job is complete.
Then, the BBB said to hold that remaining percentage until all of the suppliers are paid and everything is finalized.