BATH — Gediman’s Appliance, the longest-tenured store in downtown Bath, has closed without explanation, leaving angry customers who have paid for goods and services that were never delivered and sparking an investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Inventory could be seen inside the store at 67 Center St. and it appeared ready for business, but mail was piled up at the doorstep and Federal Express notices were stuck to the door last week. Another Gediman’s store in Lewiston also is closed. Calls to both stores were picked up by answering machines that had full message boxes. Attempts to reach employees also were unsuccessful.

Why the stores closed and the whereabouts of owners Peter and Serrene Gagnon of Poland are unknown.

On Tuesday, Lt. Robert Savary said the Bath Police Department has received multiple calls about Gediman’s.

“We’ve got some people that have walked in and made complaints about the business closing, and they had made purchases they’d never received,” Savary said. “We’ve referred those complaints to the attorney general.”

What is clear is the growing list of customers unable to get their appliances – or their money back.

“I have a $3,000 deposit over there, with no contact or anything,” said John Gordon, a contractor in Woolwich. “I gave the deposit on a whole bunch of appliances.”

Gordon also has friends who purchased from Gediman’s and were left empty-handed.

“I’m not the only guy in this,” he said. “I’m lucky I got this last kitchen out of them.”

Martha Currier, a complaint examiner at the Attorney General’s Office, had received six formal complaints about the business and multiple calls about the store as of Tuesday morning.

“Some people have contacted us and had what I would consider high-value purchases with the business,” Currier said. “I think the biggest problem that I’ve heard from consumers right now is they can’t get through to the business. We don’t know anything at this point.”

Currier said her office has been unable to contact the owners by any means.

Gediman’s has been a Bath institution for decades. It has existed in the city since 1924, and was formerly located on the current site of City Hall. Originally owned by Arthur and Henry Gediman, the business was sold to Jayne and Russell Palmer in 1986. The Gagnons bought the business in 2006.

The Attorney General’s Office is monitoring the situation and reviewing complaints with the hope that they can be mediated with the business, either by getting customers’ money back or the appliances they ordered, according to Currier.

Currier wouldn’t comment on whether there is an attorney general’s office investigation.

“There’s always the possibility the attorney general can decide to take a case against the business to figure out what’s going on,” Currier said. “Were they intentionally taking money from consumers, or was it just bad business practice?”

Simply mismanaging the business is not a punishable offense. However, if the owners intentionally took money knowing the business would close, criminal charges could follow.

If the case cannot be mediated and the attorney general doesn’t pursue a case against the owners, customers may be in for some bad news, Currier said. If the owners don’t have the money, the consumers will have to resort to legal action in civil court to get their money back.

Until more information comes to light, Currier said it’s best to err on the side of caution.

“Maybe there’s product that just needs to be delivered. Maybe we just need to open up a line of communication with consumers and the business to get this resolved,” she said.

The Attorney General’s Office is asking customers who have complaints about Gediman’s to contact the office by calling (800) 436-2131 or emailing [email protected]

Chris Chase can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: cchaseCJ

 

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CORRECTION: This story was updated at 1:35 p.m. on Oct. 2, 2014, to clarify the involvement of the Maine Attorney General’s Office.