Owner closes up beauty shop, leaves students high and dry

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - It's a case of beauty school dropout, but it wasn't the students who left.

The owner of Blackwood Beauty School in Pocahontas closed the doors and left the students and instructor high and dry.

Region 8 News investigated what happened and whether the thousands of dollars the students paid to attend the school would be reimbursed.

Along Highway 67 in Pocahontas sits Blackwood Beauty School. A sign out front boasts the student of the month but a sign on the door claims the school is "closed until further notice." The phone number to the business has also been disconnected.

"Within a few days, we could tell that everything in the school was going downhill," Ashley Thielemier, one of the school's students told Region 8 News.

"I only had 172 hours left," Thielemier said. She explained she was ten months into the program and was set to graduate in just three weeks. Thielemier also had a job lined up for when she received her cosmetology license.

Thielemier, like the other students enrolled, paid thousands of dollars to attend the eleven month program.

"I had a $500 coupon so it only cost me about $4,000 something."

Thielemier told Region 8 News when she and the other girls arrived at school recently, they were told Blackwood Beauty School would be closed temporarily as the owner, Michelle Long, also known as Michelle Jones, was in the hospital.

"Right in the middle of that conversation, she got a phone call and it was from Michelle's mother," Thielemier said.

"She said that they were closing the school indefinitely, they filed bankruptcy," Thielemier said. "We got all of our stuff and we left that day but we were never told anything else."

Region 8 News called the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas. They confirmed that Michelle filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in November of 2013.

Thielemier said the students knew that had happened, as Michelle closed her two other businesses, Personalities in Pocahontas and Highland Academy of Cosmetology in Highland, Arkansas when she filed for bankruptcy.

"It was not supposed to have anything to do with Blackwood," Thielemier thought.

Thielemier explained Michelle's cosmetology students from the Highland came to Pocahontas to finish school. Now that this school is closed too, many of the students are looking for reimbursement.

We asked Thielemier if she had any hopes from getting money back from Michelle and she quickly responded, "No. We would like to but we don't plan on getting any of the money back."

In the contract for Blackwood Beauty School, it does state that in the event the school closes permanently and they are no longer offering instruction, students will be pro-rated their tuition...but only if they are less than six months into the program.

Personnel and administration have changed in the time that contract was posted online but Thielemier told Region 8 News that was the contract students signed when starting the program.

So for students like Thielemier, they're out of luck.

"She should have to give us our money back. At least some of it because we're having to come up with all of this out of our pocket."

Thielemier, a mother of four, said all attempts to contact Michelle have turned up nothing and we ran into the same problem. After attempting to contact Michelle at multiple phone numbers and through Facebook, we've not heard back from the beauty school owner.

"She is not being a very good person about this," Thielemier said. "Everyone has their problems but you should have the nerve when you have a business like that, you should be more up front with people."

Thielemier and the Arkansas State Board of Cosmetology told Region 8 News that some of the students will be able to finish out their programs at local beauty schools.

Thielemier explained, however, in doing so, it'll be an additional $500+ out of her pocket. Other students will have to pay more or less depending on how many hours they have left in the program.

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