Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of 3rd Ward’s abrupt closure. In the closing’s aftermath, the immediate fallout was aggressively chronicled, and laments for the promise 3rd Ward represented (if didn’t always meet) were regular.
But a lot of questions went unasked and unanswered. How could a company that had expanded to another city and had its sights set on far more suddenly go belly-up? What would the teachers, students, and members, all of whom had paid for memberships and classes, do? How much were they owed? And where was Jason Goodman, 3rd Ward’s founder?
At the time of its closing, yearlong memberships at 3rd Ward cost $399, classes cost $20-25 per hour, and teachers were paid between $30 and $50 per hour. Lifetime memberships with the perk of premium studio space cost $3,200. When 3rd Ward went bankrupt, Goodman and his business partners absconded without satisfactorily explaining what had gone wrong. Even worse, the community that made 3rd Ward a vibrant arts and education space were left holding the bag. There were no refunds for members and students, and no paychecks for teachers who, in some cases, were owed thousands of dollars.
Local media noted all that, too, but a year later, no one who’s owed money by 3rd Ward has seen payment, nor been offered an explanation. A couple of months ago, writer Robin Grearson, a former instructor at 3rd Ward, took up the cause. She put out a call asking former 3rd Ward patrons and participants how much the company owed them. “The amount owed to any one person might be $100 here, $3,500 there,” Grearson wrote. “But all together, was this ‘community’ stuck with a bill for $20,000, $50,000, more?”
Six weeks into her research, Grearson’s findings have already blown past her earlier estimates. Yesterday, on her website, Grearson posted an estimate collected from outstanding membership dues, course fees, and unpaid instructor invoices: $70,573. Fifty-one instructors have reported invoices totaling up to $49,447; the remaining balance comes from memberships and course fees that were never refunded.
Grearson says that she’s contacted 100 people by now, but it’s worth reiterating here that she’s only six weeks into her project. “I suspect the number could be higher on 3rd Ward’s books—but I’m not sure that all of those students or members would know my project exists,” she told me, via email. “So I don’t know how much higher the number will climb.”
Grearson also reports that zero instructors have received a response from CFO Nick Alexander, whom they were told last October to contact about remittance, and that “multiple sources” claim Jason Goodman moved the company’s equipment offsite and sold it, in “cash-only deals for which he received thousands of dollars.”
If you’re reading this and 3rd Ward owes you, reach out to Grearson here.
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.