Defunct furniture shop overbilled customers, failed to return heirlooms, lawsuit alleges
FARGO — The North Dakota Attorney General's Office has filed a civil suit in Cass County District Court accusing the operator of the now-closed Woodchuck Furniture Restoration shop in north Fargo of consumer fraud.
The suit claims Nathanial Warren engaged in deceptive acts as the operator of Woodchuck Furniture, which Warren began operating in 2014 following the death of his father, Leroy, who had worked at the furniture restoration business for decades before buying it in 2011, according to a 2014 Forum feature story about the business.
Named in the lawsuit are eight North Dakota residents who were never able to get their furniture back from the shop after bringing it in for repairs.
One customer, Jim Christopher of West Fargo, brought items to the shop to be restored in early 2016 and was told the work would cost between $800 and $1,000, according to the lawsuit.
However, when Christopher tried to pick up the items, Warren allegedly requested $1,800 in payment. When Christopher refused to pay, the shop held onto the items and sent him a bill for $3,000, which was later reduced to $1,500, according to the lawsuit, which said Warren retained Christopher's furniture.
Contacted by phone, Christopher said the $3,000 bill he received from the business included storage fees the business tried to impose after the dispute arose over how much the work should have cost.
He said he still doesn't know where his items are and doesn't expect to recover them.
In the case of another customer, an Argusville, N.D., woman brought a cupboard to the shop that had belonged to her grandfather. The woman left the furniture with Warren and paid $1,075 up front, according to the lawsuit.
Warren subsequently ignored the woman's efforts to communicate with him and closed the business without returning her property, the lawsuit alleges.
It isn't clear when Woodchuck Furniture closed, but Warren contracted to do work with at least one customer as recently as November 2019, the lawsuit said.
In the 2014 Forum feature story about Woodchuck Furniture, Nathanial Warren said that owning the business had been the dream of his father and he said he didn't see himself as the proprietor of a restoration operation.
"It was his baby, and I came to help him with it. Then he passed away, so here I am. I can't see giving up on it," Warren said, adding that he put in about 80 hours a week.
At the time, Warren said the shop had a four-month backlog of work.
Efforts to reach Warren for comment were not successful.
The lawsuit seeks to permanently bar Warren from engaging in the sale of furniture restoration in North Dakota and seeks a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation of state law.
It also seeks restitution for all consumers who suffered a loss.