First Security Bank Sues Lauren James for Allegedly Defaulting on Loan

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jun. 11, 2018 11:58 am   2 min read

Lauren and Lance Stokes started the Lauren James Co. in Fayetteville in 2013. (Beth Hall)

First Security Bank sued women's clothing company Lauren James of Fayetteville on Thursday seeking $338,720, the unpaid balance of a $400,000 business loan. 

The Searcy bank also named the married co-owners of the company, Lauren Wilkins and Lance Stokes, as defendants in the lawsuit because they had personally guaranteed the loan, which was first taken out in February 2017, for $500,000. 

The loan, which was to provide liquidity for Lauren James Enterprises Inc., was renewed several times, the last on April 20, for $400,000. It had a due date of June 5. 

In the lawsuit filed in Washington County Circuit Court, the bank said it's entitled to take immediate possession of Lauren James' collateral, which is valued at $1.35 million and used as security for the loan.

The lawsuit said Lauren James violated terms of the loan agreement by moving "substantially" all its inventory to New Jersey. The move was done in "an attempt to preclude First Security from taking possession of the inventory," the lawsuit said.

First Security wants a judgment against Lauren James for the money owed plus interest and late fees. 

An attorney for Lauren James, Cal Rose of Wright Lindsey & Jennings in Rogers, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Lance Stokes didn't immediately return a call for comment. He told Talk Business in May that the company closed its Fayetteville store on May 1 and has moved its distribution from Arkansas to Dotcom Distribution of Edison, New Jersey. Lauren James closed its 60,000-SF distribution center in Fayetteville as a result of the move, the article said.

Stokes told Talk Business that the retailer laid off about 50 employees, leaving it with about 50.

Lauren James has seen a string of media accolades. In September, Inc. magazine ranked Lauren James as the 53rd fastest-growing private company in the United States with a three-year growth record of 6,000 percent and revenue of $13.2 million. Inc. also featured Lauren Stokes in an article headlined "How This Mother of a Newborn Launched a $13 Million Business."

Last year Forbes named Lauren Stokes a 30 Under 30 for Retail & Ecommerce. Both Lauren and Lance Stokes have been honored as Arkansas Business' 20 in Their 20s, Lauren in 2015 and Lance, the company's chief operating officer, in 2017.

After the beginning of the year, Arkansas Business wrote about two lawsuits the company settled. Documents in the lawsuits challenged the official story of how the company was founded.



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