Engagement ring customers caught in middle of business dispute

Updated: Jul. 7, 2020 at 2:08 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It's an engagement ring runaround that has caught a family in the middle of a business dispute.

In late February, Hunter Moran ordered a custom engagement ring for his fiancee, Brittney Sobolak, at Watertown’s Thousand Island’s Diamond Center.

Hunter's mom, Chrystal, put half the payment down, $1,400.

Just a month later, the pandemic hit and New York state businesses closed.

Weeks went by and there was still no word on the status of the ring so Chrystal made multiple attempts to find answers. She made calls, sent messages, even went to the store - with no luck.

"Okay. There's something really wrong," said Chrystal. "At this point, I wanted the ring. I still want the ring for my son."

So what happened? That store's parent company is Perrywinkle's Fine Jewelry. We talked to CEO Perry Sporn.

“The store shut because the people operating it were franchisees. We were the franchiser. It’s just like a local McDonald’s that the operators may have said, ‘Oops, goodbye,’” he said.

Sporn says the ring and the rest of the store's merchandise are in Vermont with him.

"It's just as disappointing to us as it is to the customers in Watertown that you had people who abandoned ship," he said.

But the couple who operated the Watertown shop tell a different story. They say if they went back to work there, Perrywinkle's would drastically reduce their pay.

"Their version of the story is we abandoned the store which isn't true. I mean, yes, we refused to take a 46 percent pay cut, but other than that we were more than happy to go back in there and work June and July and solve all of the customers' issues," said Scott Brown.

Brown and his wife now own their own jewelry store and they dispute the claim that the diamond center was a franchise.

"We have the initial letter of intent that he sent to us to sign that says we are 50/50 partners. Never a franchise agreement. Never a franchise fee," said Brown.

But this fight is of no concern to the Moran family. They just want the ring.

"How do we know we put forth that money and it comes in the mail? You want me to trust you, but you know you have already shaken that," said Chrystal.

"I'll come to Watertown and show it to her. We look at it and say if we can do the right thing and we can make sure anyone's happy, that's how we do business," said Sporn.

"It says a lot that he would be willing to do that. I just hope he follows through with it. I hope that they make amends to my son," said Chrystal.

Sporn says he plans to deliver the ring himself sometime soon. The clock is ticking as the wedding is August 30.

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