Shannon Osbakken appeared tired but excited this past weekend when I dropped by to see the re-opening of her popular restaurant, The Bearded Lady. After leaving her former location on West Magnolia Avenue a year ago following the end of her lease, Osbakken made plans to open the new locale along nearby South Main Street last November. She signed a contract with DeeCo Construction, a local construction and renovation company, in August 2018, Osbakken said.
“I signed on with DeeCo with the intent of being able to complete construction by last November,” she said. “There were excuses and excuses for why they could not complete construction. I had a set budget that they knew was available for them.”
Osbakken alleges that DeeCo “went over budget without providing explanations, receipts, or proof as to why.”
In an email to me, DeeCo owner Dustin Collett, who also owns Upper 90 on West Magnolia Avenue, said he “takes ownership of [some] mistakes.”
One of them, he said, was “thinking I could get [Osbakken] and her project done with the budget she had.”
Osbakken would have preferred to keep the matter private and to allow her’s and Collett’s lawyers to hash out how the outstanding unpaid balance of nearly $300,000 would be paid for, but a June 13 post on the members-only Fairmount Neighborhood Facebook group by Andrew Hancock made DeeCo Construction, and the construction delays at The Bearded Lady, the center of public debate.
“Everyone [who] has been wronged by DeeCo Construction, feel free to contact me,” the Fairmount resident wrote.
More than 400 comments followed, nearly all of which were critical of the construction company. Collett, who described the commenters as “fired” former employees and clients who didn’t read their contracts, quickly shot back.
“It’s sort of impossible to do business when you trusted someone to pay you and they totally screw you over and then publicly blame you,” he said in the comment thread. “I can’t count the times we requested clearly defined ‘owner to provide’ materials for the build-out and were told, ‘I thought that was included.’ ”
Osbakken disagrees with the assertion that she failed to provide supplies that she contractually agreed to provide.
“There were a lot of things that he was supposed to provide that we paid for,” including ventilation for the kitchen, she said.
Osbakken said Collett tried to gain shares in The Bearded Lady in exchange for settling the outstanding debt, something Osbakken wouldn’t agree to. When Collett ceased work, Osbakken alleges that many subcontractors were left unpaid for work that they had already performed. Osbakken paid them as best she could, she said, and she hopes that any settlement goes to those workers and not to Collett.
Collett did not respond to several requests for comment on these specific allegations.
Collett’s Facebook post stated that DeeCo would be “closing its doors.” A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, which files requests for dissolutions, said the company is currently active. I asked Osbakken and Collett for copies of their contract. They both declined, citing the ongoing litigation as the reason.
Dustin Browning, co-owner of Urban Rehab, which specializes in historic renovations, said his recent experience with DeeCo Construction was “extremely difficult.” He said he accepted a bid from DeeCo to renovate and build an addition to a 1920s Fairmount home 14 months ago.
“About 10 months into [construction], [Collett] abandoned the project,” Browning said. There was “work unfinished, and many things were done improperly. He managed to spend the majority of the budget while leaving much more work to be done.”
Collett again did not respond to requests for comment.
Browning said that his business partners have engaged an attorney to recoup funds that were spent for services that Browning said were never delivered, among other issues.
“From talking with many others who have hired DeeCo for similar projects, it’s apparent that our experience is not unique,” Browning said.
Carolyn Ward hired DeeCo Construction in 2016 following a massive hail storm that damaged her Fairmount home. There were no negative online reviews at the time, she said. On the phone, Collett came across “really well,” she said. Ward was living in Georgia at the time, and her daughter, who lived near Fort Worth, helped coordinate the repairs.
When Ward moved back into her Fairmount home the following year, she noticed that several repairs were done poorly or skipped altogether. The original damaged roof over the garage had not been replaced, she said. Cheap paint, which subsequently began peeling off, had been used, and several metal porch screens had not been replaced. It took more than a year and threats of initiating insurance fraud to motivate Collett to replace the roof over the garage, according to Ward.
We reached out to Collett for comment about these other two incidents, but we didn’t hear back by the time we went to print. Through his initial Facebook post, Collett addressed the general complaints about past work.
“We never maliciously or knowingly took advantage of anyone or anything,” he wrote. All we did was work hard to [be] the best provider we could for a fair price. Enjoy the handouts paid for by my personal assets. DeeCo is gone after providing $1.2 million in salaries to residents of 76110 over three years.”
Osbakken didn’t want to go far into detail about her business relationship with DeeCo Construction and Collett. She said she preferred to focus on her recent business opening while allowing the dispute to run its course through legal channels, but she did summarize her experience.
“It seems like everyone I’ve talked to has had this same scenario and issue,” she said. “I hope there is some kind of recourse for this and that he doesn’t get away with it forever.”