EAST GREENWICH, R.I. — When jewelry company Alex and Ani abruptly vacated its Rhode Island headquarters in June, it left behind thousands of pieces of equipment, and unpaid bills from local business owners, its landlord, and the town of East Greenwich.
On Nov. 13, the equipment and assets left over from the once-successful American jewelry retailer and producer will be sold at an online-bidding-only auction, marking another chapter in the company’s demise.
There are more than 1,800 lots in the auction, and all of the assets are located at the company’s former warehouse at 10 Briggs Drive in East Greenwich. Store fixtures, computers, office and distribution equipment, printers, and many other items were abandoned by Alex and Ani’s executives in June, and left for the property’s landlord to deal with.
Sal Corio, the owner of SJ Corio Company in Warwick, is conducting the auction, and said the bagging equipment alone is worth “more than $200,000″ if purchased new.
Corio told the Globe in a phone interview on Friday that he was initially hired in May by Alex and Ani’s Chief Operating Officer Norm Viet. For years, Alex and Ani had handled all of its own distribution, fulfillment, and manufacturing in-house in its East Greenwich plant. Yet in March, Alex and Ani announced it would begin outsourcing its warehousing and fulfillment services to Stord, an Atlanta-based company.
“I’m usually the guy changing your locks. You don’t lock me out,” said Corio. “They didn’t even inform us they were leaving. I was a little upset that they didn’t even tell me. I felt like I wasted time.”
“I’ve never heard a word from Alex and Ani after that,” added Corio.
Days later, Corio said he spoke to the property’s landlord, Christopher Leahey, who Corio said is “owed millions” by Alex and Ani through the end of their lease in 2025. Leahey, Corio said, asked Corio to move forward with the auction.
“It didn’t make sense for us to sue Alex and Ani if they aren’t even paying the landlord,” said Corio.
When the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2021, Alex and Ani also owed the town of East Greenwich $176,000 in taxes. On Friday, East Greenwich Finance Director Patricia Sunderland told the Globe that Alex and Ani currently owe the town more than $251,000 in back taxes.
On Wednesday, local photographer and videographer David Lawlor said in a Facebook post that Alex and Ani “refuses to answer my email and pay $1,500 for the video work that I shot and edited.”
“First time I had to chase $2,000,” wrote Lawlor on social media. “I don’t bad mouth my clients on social, but come on guys, you’ve tarnished your image and ruined a nice relationship with me.”
After Lawlor’s public post, Alex and Ani responded to his emails and paid him on Thursday.
Alex and Ani CEO Scott Burger could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
It’s been more than two and a half years since the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. For the first time in the company’s nearly 20-year history, it does not have an office in Rhode Island, where it was founded by Carolyn Rafaelian.
Rafaelian, who grew up in and continues to reside in Cranston, R.I., no longer has any ties to the company. In late 2022, she launched Metal Alchemist, a new jewelry brand creating American-made products manufactured in Rhode Island.
Alex and Ani once employed a team of at least 300 in East Greenwich. In June, Alex and Ani CEO Scott Burger told the Globe the company still had 50 Rhode Island-based employees, and confirmed that it was closing 20 stores, and would keep only seven retail stores open.
That same week, Burger told employees in Rhode Island that they would need to take their computers and other office equipment home to try a “hybrid model.”
But Corio said Friday a hybrid or remote working was never in the plan when Alex and Ani hired him in May.
“We weren’t ever going to auction off the computers. They were going to continue operating out of there. I was told it was just the distribution and bagging equipment they were getting rid of,” said Corio. “Now we have everything from store displays, paintings, fixtures from some of the closed stores — you name it. They abandoned everything.”
It’s unclear why Alex and Ani abandoned the headquarters completely. Their office lease was supposed to run through 2025.
After Rafaelian founded Alex and Ani in 2004 at her late father’s Cinerama Jewelry factory in Cranston, it had a spectacular rise. She named the company after her two eldest daughters, and by the mid-2010s, Alex and Ani was the fastest growing company in America.
In a series of exclusive interviews, Rafaelian said she was “pushed out” of her company, and Alex and Ani is now 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.
As of Friday, it’s unclear how many employees the company has overall, or in Rhode Island.