Caterer splits when KATU goes looking for answers

Caterer splits when KATU goes looking for answers

PORTLAND, Ore. - The owner of a defunct catering business who left his customers high and dry isn't answering questions.

Phresh Organic Catering shut its doors recently and customers who had put down deposits are now wondering if they will ever see their money.

Sarah Mayer and her fiance, Michael, booked the company a year in advance of their wedding and paid a $4,600 deposit. But late last month, when Mayer contacted Phresh Organic Catering to finalize her plans, she never heard back.

"I didn't hear anything," she said. "No email. I started calling and about a week ago I called and their mailbox was full, which was concerning."

So Mayer went to the storefront to talk to someone in person and that's when she found an empty building and a locked door.

On Monday, we confronted the owner, Robert Leon, at his apartment, but he turned tail instead of explaining what happened to all of the deposit money.

Over the weekend, the company's website said simply "it is with deep regret that I am writing to inform you that unfortunately after seven years of business, and due to circumstances beyond my control, Phresh Organic Catering had to close unexpectedly. It has been a joy and privilege to know and work with such wonderful individuals." By Monday, the website appeared to have been shut down for the most part.

We did hear from the company's former director of catering, Shelley Lomax, who was laid off on Jan. 23.

"I wish I had known," Lomax said. "I wish he had given me an indicator because I was actively selling up until the morning he let me go. I processed $8,000 in deposits in the two days leading up to me being laid off."

Since our initial story on Sunday, three catering companies have stepped forward wanting to help Mayer and we have put her in touch with them. She is also working with her credit card company to  dispute the $4,600 deposit she paid to Phresh Organic Catering.