PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - By all accounts, the owners of A&K Thrift Mall on Highway 280 are upstanding and outstanding people. That's why everyone seems surprised by their decision to close up shop and lock out its vendors.
Phenix City's finance director says the decision is well within the owners' rights and out of the city's hands.
"It's a private business. They can close or open on their own. We don't have any say so on that as long as they're obeying the law," explains Steve Smith, Director of Finance for Phenix City.
Smith is also the department head of business licenses for Phenix City. He tells us since February 2012, Kevin and Angel Smith have run A&K Thrift Mall in accordance with the city's codes and ordinances. He says whether the store is closed temporarily or permanently, the city won't know until it's time to renew the business license.
"If they remained closed, they'll have to file a final, but that's not due till the their license is up for renewal next January," Smith adds. "But, you know, that's a private matter of a private company - a civil issue."
Regardless, it's an issue vendors and their families say they want settled.
"I understand the city's point," says Loveta Culpepper. "What we need to do is find who owns this building and have them step up."
Conveniently -- the building's owner had been taped to the 'temporarily closed' sign when we got to A&K. But Culpepper - whose 79-year-old father sells in the store to supplement his fixed income couldn't get a hold of the person on the door.
"I tried to call this number at least twice today," Culpepper said. "I called it early this morning and I tried to call it again -- it's going directly to her voicemail."
Other vendors say the same thing. Leaving many calling and stopping by, still patiently waiting for answers.
"If they changed the locks, they need to do something right like go on the local news and say 'on this day, we're going to let the vendors come in and get their belongings cause they worked hard to get what they go in there," Culpepper adds.
The owners released this statement in hopes of doing just that. To view that complete statement, click here http://www.wtvm.com/story/26073738/ak-thrift-mall-releases-statement-on-sudden-store-closure