EAST GREENWICH, R.I. — Alex and Ani, the popular jewelry brand that sold wire bangles with spiritual and meaningful charms, abruptly closed 20 stores and told employees that they will vacate their Rhode Island headquarters just two years after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Multiple employees told the Globe that executives announced during an all-staff town hall meeting on Tuesday that they would be closing down their global headquarters at 10 Briggs Drive in East Greenwich. It is the first time in Alex and Ani’s nearly 20-year history that it would not have an office in Rhode Island, where it was founded.
During the meeting, CEO Scott Burger told employees that they would need to take their office supplies and set up their at-home offices that same day, staffers told the Globe, even though the company’s lease is supposed to run through 2025.
“We are evaluating our office requirements for a hybrid working model, that we have used since COVID-19,” Burger told the Globe in an email on Thursday. “The Rhode Island team will work remotely until we determine our future office needs and conduct a search.”
When the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2021, Alex and Ani owed its landlord, Christopher Leahey, nearly $458,000 and the town of East Greenwich $176,000 in taxes.
Leahey did not respond to the Globe’s request for comment.
Alex and Ani had already closed all four of its retail stores in Rhode Island, including its flagship location in Newport, prior to filing for bankruptcy protection in 2021, but still had 74 stores across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada. Now, 20 more stores have closed as well — some of them on Sunday night, with employees finding out just before the locations were to open Monday morning.
Only seven stores will remain open, executives confirmed Thursday.
On Tuesday, Katarina Palacios, a former store manager for Alex and Ani in Oak Brook, Illinois, posted the news on her LinkedIn. She said the 20 Alex and Ani stores closed “with no notice.”
“To all of my friends who were part of the 20-store layoff at Alex and Ani yesterday, I am so incredibly heartbroken,” Palacios wrote. “I am so sorry. I remember the feeling of closing my Alex and Ani store at the Oak Brook location last year.”
Gigi Wall, an Alex and Ani store manager and field training manager in Short Pump, Virginia, was actively recruiting for at least two open positions in her store in mid-June. On Monday, she lost her job.
“Along with countless others, I lost my dream job yesterday. I’m heartbroken,” Wallen wrote on LinkedIn on Tuesday. “It was an amazing place to work.”
In March, Alex and Ani announced it would begin outsourcing its warehousing and fulfillment services to Stord, an Atlanta-based company. Previously, Alex and Ani had handled all of its own distribution, fulfillment, and manufacturing in-house in its East Greenwich plant. That 125,000-square foot section of the plant is currently listed as being available for lease.
Burger said in a statement at the time that outsourcing parts of the business would allow the company to focus on “scaling our brand, developing products, and further elevating the customer experience.”
Sean Henry, the CEO and co-founder of Stord, said in the same statement that the partnership would allow Alex and Ani to reduce costs.
Alex and Ani was founded by Carolyn Rafaelian in 2004 at her late father’s Cinerama Jewelry factory in Cranston, R.I. It was named after her two eldest daughters and, by the mid-2010s, Alex and Ani was the fastest-growing company in America.
In November 2022, Rafaelian launched her new jewelry company, Metal Alchemist, which is headquartered in North Kingstown, R.I. In an interview with the Globe, she called the new company her “life’s most important work.” She is no longer involved with Alex and Ani.
Alex and Ani is controlled by majority owner London-based Lion Capital, which controls 65 percent of the company and was founded by wealthy English financier Lyndon Lea, and Bathing Club LLC, which controls the remaining 35 percent and is owned by criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos.
In August 2022, Boston-based Second Avenue Capital Partners, which specializes in asset-based loans for retail and consumer products, announced it had closed on a $17.5 million secured credit facility for Alex and Ani.
But on Wednesday Michael Smith, the managing director of the finance firm, told the Globe in an email that Second Avenue was “no longer involved with the company.” He declined to answer any further questions.
Alex and Ani once employed at least 300 employees at its East Greenwich headquarters. Burger told the Globe on Thursday that the company currently has 50 Rhode Island-based employees, which he called “our largest concentration of employees.”
“I’m also very happy that we’ve been able to build a very strong digital team in the midwest,” said Burger.
Most of the executives work remotely from other parts of the country, including Burger, some executives told the Globe.
Some longtime company employees mourned the news that the jewelry company would no longer have any physical presence in Rhode Island.
“It felt crushing,” one current executive, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job, told the Globe on Wednesday. “We’ve always been a Rhode Island company that employed Rhode Islanders. Now it’s hardly even a shell of its former self. It’s practically non-existent.”