FORT MYERS, Fla. A local event planning company has, in the words of Nancy VanTassell, “ticked off the wrong small business person.”
VanTassell, owner of Draped in Jewelry, a Charlotte County-based jewelry making business, said she paid $60 for a March event hosted by La’Elegante at the Bayfront Inn in Naples.
But three days before the event, VanTassell said she received an email from the company stating that it was canceled.
“When you’re down here for season, that’s when you make your money, so you’re selective,” she said, referring to the vendor events she pays to participate in. “I intentionally picked the one (event) that I did because it got me outside of our immediate counties of Charlotte and Sarasota.”
Naples resident Cheryl Acquafresca, who sells Rodan and Fields skincare, and Cape Coral resident Jenny Grzych, who sells pampering products made by Perfectly Posh, also paid to vendor at the March event.
Acquafresca received a similar cancelation email from La’Elegante.
Grzych says she did not.
“When I showed up and went to the hotel, they basically let me know there was no event that they were aware of,” she said. “I emailed (La’Elegante). Never could get a hold of anybody when I tried to call.”
No records, bad reviews
VanTassell, Acquafresca and Grzych are among dozens of vendors claiming that La’Elegante does not host the functions it promises to hold.
They, along with 26 other vendors, complained to WINK News and in total are out $2,310.
Company owner Shantell Sutton, who also runs Simply Elegant Dresses, declined to speak on-camera but said it was the venues that canceled the events.
La’Elegante, on its Facebook page, continues to advertise events at the Bayfront Inn and Florida Southwestern State College’s Collier Campus, but both venues said neither the company nor Sutton have contacted them and the company has no upcoming events on their calendars.
La’Elegante operates in Fort Myers, Miami, Atlanta and California, according to Sutton.
The company received an ‘F’ rating from the Better Business Bureau while Wedding Wire gave La’Elegante a half-star out of five stars.
Acquafresca, one of the small business owners, wants the company to stop doing business.
“They have a lot of these going on, so I think it’s time for them to just stop,” she said.
The company and Sutton are currently being investigated by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the agency said.