I-Team: Church Chair Industries - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

I-Team: Church Chair Industries

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Churches worldwide have turned to prayer and sometimes to a judge to get money back from a local manufacturer.

The I-team's Dana Fowle goes to Rome to find out why this company -- well-known to churches -- has fallen on its knees.

"You took a taxi?"

"I took a taxi from here to Rome, Georgia," said Gertrude Mulowe, a Church Chair Customer.

Gertrude Mulowe was so angry she in fact took a $150 taxi ride from Atlanta to Rome.

She walked right in to Church Chair Industries and demanded her money back.

"I told them I'm not going to leave this building without my money. If you got to kill me, kill me in this building. I gave my money to them; I'm not going to leave this place!" said Sot: Gertrude Mulowe.

Church Chair Industries is well-known to churches all around the world. They like to brag they don't import these stackable chairs; they make them right here in the U.S. But lately, Church Chair Industries is better known for its financial missteps.

Gertrude Mulowe runs a small, but growing Atlanta congregation. In the end, she paid Church Chair Industries nearly $4,000 ($3,846.65) for 100 chairs.

This was last December.

"When I start calling them after one week they said, Oh, the burgundy chair that you requested, the material, we don't have that material," said Mulowe.


So, out of the fabric she wanted, Ms. Mulowe says she picked another color. By then it was March and still no chairs. She says she got another phone call.

"Oh, not that material; it's going to take longer. That material, we don't have that material any longer," said Mulowe.

Out of her fabric again.

"From December to June this is seven month. No chair. No money!" said Mulowe.

That's when she took that $150 cab ride here to the plant and made her demands.

"I'm not going to leave this building unless I have my money. That owner would not even respect me. He couldn't even come out to say, 'Hi'," said Mulowe.

She got her money back but minus 10 percent for what the company president called a "processing fee."

"I would have liked to have talked to her, too. I can't give you a reason why I didn't. I didn't dodge her. I'll tell you that though," said Dean Sammons, Church Chair Industries President

Church Chair president, Dean Sammons, took over the family business when his father passed away in the late 90s.

He says the factory is up and running but admits it's staff is about a third of what it used to be.

"We're just behind on orders. (What does that mean?) It means we are making chairs but not as fast as we need," said Sammons.

But his problems are still stacking up. According to the Better Business Bureau, Church Chair Industries has had 70 complaints this year. This document shows the company faces $219,000 ($219,149.51) in federal tax liens. And a California church sued to get a nearly $8,000 ($7,890) deposit returned.

"We're going through the same problems you see in all the strip malls, the car dealerships and everything else. We're pulling out of it. We're addressing all of them," said Sammons.

But then there was the June arrest of the company co-owner. According to police, Tammy Harper was charged with writing an $8,900 bad check ("issuance of bad checks") for an ad.

Dean Sammons says it was a misunderstanding. He says Ms. Harper told the company to wait before cashing it.

"OK, this check is not going to be good for two days and they took it, Boom!, right straight to the bank and the money wasn't in there," said Sammons.

If that was a misunderstanding then this is downright confusing: The company admits keeping one worker's child support money instead of mailing it out to the custodial parent.

"That is something I've just become aware of and we're working to rectify that problem. (How did that happen?) I don't know," said Sammons.

Gertrude Mulowe feels blessed; she got most of her money back. But she also found a new company and got these new chairs in just two days. The irony of Church Chair Industries taking money from church people is not lost on her.

"I say members you got to trust me I can go get God's money," said Mulowe.

Dean Sammons, the company president, says he is working with his creditors and banks to try to secure a loan. He says he realizes this American company's international reputation is at stake.

Church Chair has had other tax liens that they have satisfied. So they are paying back some of their credits.

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