News Column

Golden State Mall closure dashes dreams, disrupts plans

June 28, 2014

By Ruth Brown AND Courtenay Edelhart, The Bakersfield Californian

June 28--Marisol Medina dreamed of giving her daughter a beautiful quinceanera and paid $4,500 to hold the party at Golden State Mall in November.

So when the Wasco resident learned Friday the building's owner was closing it without notice -- and without reimbursement of her money -- she was upset.

"Now what do I do?" said the single mother of four. "I saved for this. I can't lose (that money)."

The owner of the 54-year old property at 3201 F St. -- Golden State Mall, LLC -- sought Chapter 11 protection in March after defaulting on a loan in September 2013 of more than $7.4 million.

The mall's more than a dozen creditors range from Bank of America ($62,247 for credit card and car payments) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company ($48,141 for utilities), to Dell Financial ($9,500 for computers) and the City of Bakersfield ($3,097 for trash collection).

The company's offices are in Los Angeles. A call late Friday to its Los Angeles attorney was not immediately returned.

Vendors who had operated businesses inside the mall packed up their inventories and supplies Friday morning.

Rosie Arredondo, owner of Arredondo Multi-Services, a tax and document business in the mall, said she was notified about a month ago the mall owner was filing for bankruptcy.

"But we didn't get a day that we had to leave," Arredondo said. "We were surprised."

But while vendors were inside packing, nearly two dozen people like Medina who had made down payments to use portions of the 154,142-square-foot property for events, waited outside the mall's locked doors for nearly two hours trying to get information.

About 10:30 a.m., an unidentified mall employee, accompanied by two security guards, allowed them inside, along with members of the media. But the security guards quickly demanded the media leave, at one point pushing a photographer and two cameramen out the door.

Medina had saved for years for the quinceanera, paying for a $10,000 package deal that included the cost of the banquet hall venue, plus tables, chairs, linens, bartenders, security, food, decorations and clean-up services. It seemed like the perfect deal.

She also had bought her daughter's $1,300 quinceanera dress at Dreams By: La Plebada Fashion, a boutique inside the mall. The dress order was supposed to come in July but now the shop is moving out of the mall.

There were plenty of others in the same plight as Medina.

Jose Bravo and his fiancee Edith Ortiz planned to have their wedding reception at the mall's banquet hall July 26. The couple took out a $3,800 loan at 17 percent interest to rent the venue. They had invited 300 guests.

Veronica Lopez of Bakersfield paid $10,000 to use the banquet hall for her daughter's September quinceanera. She booked the space eight months ago.

Two days after her final payment earlier this week, she learned the mall was closing.

Lopez doesn't know if she'll see that $10,000 again and after speaking with the mall manager Friday she said she wasn't hopeful.

Medina took the only recourse she could: She went to the courthouse to begin the process of filing a small claim request against the mall owner.


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Source: Bakersfield Californian, The (CA)

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