Dozens of customers who prepaid for massages, manicures and other services at Studio Fit Day Spa in Columbia, Mo., may be at risk of losing their money after the business shut its doors June 7 and put its equipment and inventory up for auction, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
BBB is advising consumers and businesses to exercise extreme caution when dealing with Melvin Roberts and Myrna Roberts, the Columbia couple who operated the spa. BBB says the couple has a history of questionable business dealings dating back more than 10 years.
A woman from Columbia who said she received a $150 gift certificate from fellow employees as a birthday present on March 31 said she is concerned the certificate is now worthless. “These girls work hard for their money,” the woman said of her coworkers. “It’s just disheartening.”
Another customer from Columbia said she and her mother have been unable to use $286 in coupons for “Mother’s Day packages” purchased from the spa.
A former manager and a former employee of the spa both said they were stunned by the sudden closing. The manager said at least 100 customers stand to lose money.
BBB has issued several alerts on the potential pitfalls of paying in advance for coupons, gift certificates and memberships to spas and health clubs. But BBB believes the shuttering of Studio Fit Day Spa is particularly troubling, in light of the Roberts’ background.
“The closing of Studio Fit Day Spa seems to be anything but typical,” said Columbia BBB Regional Director Sean Spence. “Instead, it appears this was a company built, almost from the beginning, on a shaky foundation.”
Melvin and Myrna Roberts’ legal problems began more than a decade ago.
Court records show that Western Blue Print Company of Kansas City sued the couple in April 2006, alleging the two schemed to steal money and contracts from that business. The lawsuit claimed the scheme began while Myrna Roberts was a Western Blue Print manager in Columbia.
The case ultimately was appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and finally decided in September 2013 when a Boone County circuit judge entered a final judgment calling for the couple to pay Western Blue Print $400,000 in damages and attorney fees. The courts upheld claims of “tortious interference with a valid business expectancy” and computer tampering against Myrna Roberts, and a claim of civil conspiracy against Melvin Roberts.
This past March, another Boone County judge again ruled against Melvin Roberts in a case pitting Roberts and his wife against the couple’s six children.
In that case, the couple and several of their children battled over the ownership of the spa and its parent company, American Development Services Corp. The judge ruled that Roberts initially claimed the children owned the spa and American Development Services in order to escape paying the $400,000 judgment in the Western Blue Print case.
“The reason for opening a new company and having different ownership was to insulate the company from collections by judgment creditors of Mel and Myrna,” the judge said.
When Melvin Roberts later claimed it was he – and not the children – who owned the company, the judge disagreed:
“There is no mechanism under the law for someone to lawfully own a company, pretend someone else does . . . and then come in later and assert ownership of the company,” the judge said.
The judge noted that the couple took nearly $100,000 out of American Development Services to pay credit card bills and living expenses, and Myrna Roberts took more than $143,000 from the spa between late 2011 and 2014.
Despite the judge’s March decision awarding ownership to the Roberts’ children, one of the children said the parents continued to run the day-to-day business of the spa until its closing.
The daughter, Amber Roberts Cox, said neither she nor her siblings have ever had any direct control of the spa or its operations. She said she has “no idea” whether consumers will receive any refunds from the spa.
“I understand that people are upset, and rightfully so,” Cox said. “But it is out of my hands at this point.”
Attempts to reach Melvin and Myrna Roberts were unsuccessful. Chad Roberts, Melvin Roberts’ son, is president of American Development Services Corp., according to records on file with the Missouri secretary of state. Attempts to reach Chad Roberts were unsuccessful.
BBB offers the following advice for people considering prepaying for spa or health club services:
St. Louis Area Media Contacts: Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Shellie Kreter, PR & Communications Manager, (314) 584-6723 or (314) 348-5451 (cell), email@example.com
Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org
Columbia media contact: Sean Spence, Columbia Regional Director, (573) 886-8965, email@example.com
Cape Girardeau media contact: Joey Keys, Cape Girardeau Regional Director, (573) 803-3191, firstname.lastname@example.org
Quincy media contact: Mara Clingingsmith, BBB Quincy Regional Director, (217) 209-3972 or (217) 242-6272 (cell), email@example.com
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.