Better Call Behnken: Customers lose antiques after sudden closure of New Port Richey shop

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) — For some, New Port Richey’s Antiques at River Road was the place to go to find a buyer for unique items.

But at least four customers now accuse the shop of abruptly closing without giving them the opportunity to pick up their antiques, together valued at thousands of dollars, according to the customers.

“We feel cheated,” said customer Cherryl Gleghorn.

The shop owner, Gina Stewart, says the claims are not true. She points to contracts the customers signed, stating their items would be donated to charity if they failed to pick them up. The contracts are for four months, and buyers are supposed to receive phone calls if their items don’t sell. At that time, according to the contract, they would have two weeks to pick up items.

Three women who turned to 8 On Your Side claim they were never given that opportunity, and found the shop shut down, doors closed, and their items gone.

Cynthia Byrd said she consigned several items that her mother had left to the family when she passed away.

“I wanted someone who really enjoyed this type of décor to buy it and keep it in their house and maybe pass it on to their family,” Byrd said.

The women turned to 8 On Your Side for help getting answers from the shop owner, after they say she stopped returning phone calls.

The customers also filed police reports. New Port Richey Police investigated, and a detective’s report determined Stewart “had an ongoing course of conduct which misled the victims under false pretenses.”

The detective wrote in his report that Stewart claimed she donated the items to certain charities. He then checked with staff at those charities and was unable to find evidence that the particular items in question were ever donated.

The police department took the case to the State Attorney’s Office, but charges have not been filed. The State Attorney’s Office determined “no crimes have been committed by Stewart,” and advised the customers to file a civil case.

Byrd tells 8 On Your Side she only wants her items back.

“I just wish she would tell us where she took them,” Byrd said.

When contacted by 8 On Your Side, Stewart called the items “junk” and shut her front door. She later sent an email to 8 On Your Side, stating, “They signed agreements stating that they agreed to donate the items to local charities if they did not sell. Any items that were not picked up by deadline were donated. Just as they signed and agreed to.”

The women say there were supposed to receive phone calls with the opportunity to pick up items, and they claim that phone call never came.

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