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Closing of Elysium salon and spa in Duluth leaves customers in the lurch

When Elysium Salon and Day Spa closed abruptly in September, it left many without their favorite salon. It also left some customers holding worthless salon gift certificates and cards with little recourse. Upset, they found Elysium's phone discon...

Elysium Salon and Day Spa
Elysium Salon and Day Spa at 5008 Matterhorn Drive in Duluth recently closed without warning, leaving upset customers with gift certificates they had purchased but could no longer use. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

When Elysium Salon and Day Spa closed abruptly in September, it left many without their favorite salon.
It also left some customers holding worthless salon gift certificates and cards with little recourse. Upset, they found Elysium’s phone disconnected and its website removed. Its doors at 5008 Matterhorn Drive were locked, a piece of paper with a handwritten “Closed” on it taped to the door.
A “for sale” sign soon went up, the result of a foreclosure.
So far, eight customers have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. On its website, the unidentified complainants accuse Elysium of dishonest sales practices and failing to deliver promised services or providing refunds. All say they had gift certificates and gift cards from Elysium they now can’t use, including some bought during a salon promotion held within weeks of its closing.
“I bought two gift cards for $25 each,” one customer complained. “They had a sale that you received $50 (in services) for each $25 spent. Shortly after, the salon closed.”
Another was out $99 in gift certificates when she called to make an appointment last month.
“No notice was given so that I could redeem the services before they officially closed, and we did not receive our money back for the services that were never obtained.”Another person, who attempted to make an appointment for a pedicure, manicure and facial last month after returning from vacation, found the business had closed and no longer serving customers.
“I’m holding $160 in gift certificates which I cannot use,” she said in her complaint.
All wanted refunds or the services promised.
Unable to locate the business, the BBB closed seven of the complaints, with a “company is out of business” explanation. An eighth complaint is pending. Call up its listing for Elysium Salon and Day Spa on the BBB website and you’re greeted with a red alert for the business.
“There are lots of possible reasons for a business closure, including mismanagement, change in the economy and illness,” said Dan Hendrickson, a Better Business Bureau spokesman. “But we can infer, especially with the foreclosure, that finances are an issue here. In a case like this, there’s probably not a lot we can do, except point people in a direction of what they can do.”
On Friday, the News Tribune found co-owner Sherri L. Moyle at her Hermantown home, where she was having a garage sale.
She acknowledged that Elysium, which she co-owned with Laureen Doller, closed because of the foreclosure.
“I had no idea they were going to do it,” she said of the bank. “They didn’t have to close us down.”
Moyle, who is a certified public accountant, said she was late with one mortgage payment and behind on the property taxes but was on a payment plan with the county.
She said she is unable to reimburse customers.
“Nothing can be done about that, there is nothing left,” she said. “I feel sick about those customers.”
Hendrickson, however, had some suggestions for customers.
If the gift certificate or gift card was purchased with a credit card, he said they could contact their bank or credit card company and dispute the charge, saying the service was not provided.
“Credit card companies usually give people 60 days to dispute a charge,” he said. “So there is some hope.”
If the business files for bankruptcy, customers might be able to get some of their money back, he said. So far, no bankruptcy related to the business has been filed in U.S. District Court.
And Moyle said there won’t be, because she doesn’t have any business assets left to work with. She said the business had been struggling for some time due to the economy and rising property taxes. Instead, she said she plans to file for personal bankruptcy, sell her home and leave Minnesota.
Hendrickson also suggests customers run the matter by police.
“The fact that they were selling gift cards and certificates right before they closed is a concern, especially if they knew they would be closing,” he said. “Does that get into fraud? Is there anything the police can do? There are times when police say they can’t do much, that it’s a civil matter. But this case is different.”
When asked about the timing, Moyle said she didn’t know the business was going to close when they sold the gift certificates, including some for up to $200 in services.
“Selling gift certificates in August, that was business as usual,” she said.
She said Elysium stopped selling gift certificates, stopped taking appointments, and she stopped answering the phone after getting a week’s notice to vacate.
Elysium Salon & Spa opened in 2000 at the former Bellows restaurant building at 2230 London Road in Duluth. New ownership, which included Moyle, took over in 2002. In 2005 the business opened a second location at 5008 Matterhorn Drive near Miller Hill Mall. In 2012, the two salons were consolidated into the Matterhorn location.
There, Elysium operated out of a 4,300-square-foot space owned by Island Dream LLC. Moyle is the limited liability company’s registered agent, and Doller is the listed manager, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office.
Since the foreclosure, the National Bank of Commerce in Superior is the listed owner and taxpayer.
The property is  listed for sale by Consulting, Management & Realty Associates for $595,000, though the current market value estimated by St. Louis County assessor’s office is $485,000, records show. The higher asking price may include all the salon and spa equipment that remain in the building.

Applying makeup
Stylist and makeup artist Jerry Johnson applies eye shadow to one of Brittany Vatalaro’s lids at Elysium Salon and Day Spa in November 2008. (2008 file / News Tribune)

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