Homeowners are seeking reimbursement from Adam Gardin, a homebuilder who says his “arrogance” caused the failure of his company.
A hole in his backyard. A hole in his bank account.
Karim Hajee, father of four, wanted to turn his two-bedroom bungalow into a five-bedroom dream home. Like dozens of others, he entrusted his big renovation to Adam Gardin.
Gardin had experience. He had accolades from HomeStars.com. And, until the collapse, he had impeccable references.
Hajee said Gardin’s 10-year-old company, GarCon Building Group, gutted his North York house in October, dug the hole in November, and abandoned the site in the middle of December.
Two days before Christmas, Hajee said, Gardin made a promise: work would resume right after Christmas.
When his landlord then locked him out of the company office, his confident façade crumbled. He finally conceded, according to Hajee, that he would not complete the project and did not have Hajee’s money.
“I’ve got a big hole, I’m out six figures, and he’s gone,” Hajee said Saturday. “And now I’ve got to get another contractor in to finish up the job. My wife’s hysterical. I’ve got four kids. We’re staying at my sister-in-law’s place, and I’ve got to pay rent here too. We’re all displaced.”
Gardin, a Michigan native in his early 30s, emailed his clients and a reporter on Sunday evening. He said he is “extremely remorseful” about the “turmoil” caused by the failure of GarCon, and he blamed his “own pride and arrogance” for what he said was a fatal decision to expand too rapidly.
“My pride prevented me from realizing I was not able to manage this company on my own, and I convinced myself, and those around me, that everything was fine,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, over the last year, that has not been the case.”
The situation will take an unusual turn on Monday morning. Hajee and several other stranded GarCon clients who want their money back, plus employees and contractors who say they are owed thousands in wages, are holding a protest outside of Gardin’s house near Bathurst and Lawrence.
The demonstration, bringing together tradespeople and the white-collar professionals who were paying for their work, was the idea of GarCon foreman Rodrigo Menezes.
Menezes and his girlfriend stayed up late last week making signs on bright poster board. Among the least-harsh of their slogans: “Adam Gardin Stole Our Holidays,” “Don’t Trust Adam Gardin,” “Give Us Our Money Back,” and “My Home Has No Roof!”
The workers and the homeowners have traded unsubstantiated theories about where their money went. In a news release, Hajee claimed Gardin had perpetrated a “swindle.” One of Menezes’s signs labels him a “thief.” In an interview, though, Hajee said he believes Gardin more likely landed in financial trouble than deliberately orchestrated a scheme.
“If you ask me honestly, I don’t think he said ‘Hmm, how can I screw some people today. Let me get some people to sign contracts, give me money, and steal it.’ I don’t think that’s what he did,” he said. “I think he wanted to do the work, but something happened along the way.”
Gardin strongly rejected allegations of wrongdoing. He said the company would have been able to make more progress on projects like Hajee’s if crucial materials had not been locked in GarCon premises.
GarCon is filing for bankruptcy this week, he said.
“I am guilty of being a bad businessman, overly arrogant, and not effectively communicating my situation with those around me and my clients. However, I am not a thief. I have not defrauded anyone of the money they invested in me and my company,” he wrote in the email. “I truly wish that I had not caused so many people to suffer. While I realize my words do not help solve anything, I hope that you will at least understand that I did not intentionally create this mess.”
Menezes said the company has 20 unfinished projects. Hajee said the clients with whom he is in contact, scattered around the Toronto area, have each paid Gardin five-figure or six-figure sums, totalling over $1 million. (Gardin says there are between 10 and 15 unfinished projects, and he called the $1-million figure “ludicrous”; he said he could not immediately offer a more accurate estimate.)
Gardin’s executive assistant for more than a year, Tania Delgado, said Saturday that she is owed pay. She said she planned to attend the protest because she feels compelled to clear her name.
“I have to be there on Monday. It’s the only way I can prove to the clients that I don’t have anything to do with this,” she said.
Menezes, who immigrated 10 years ago from Brazil, said he thinks Gardin deceived him and the other workers. He is personally owed $6,000, he said — Gardin says $3,000 at most — and he feels for the “heartbreak” of homeowners whose houses are “sitting there rotting.”
“I never wanted to start something like this. It’s just that I’m the kind of person who cannot let this pass without justice. So I woke up the first day of the year and I started,” he said.
The protest is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Menezes timed it for maximum embarrassment to Gardin, whose house is near a Jewish school.
“We’re going to be there before school starts so everybody in the Jewish community can know,” he said. “And we hope not just the Jewish community — everybody — can know what kind of person he is, and somehow, he pays for his mistakes. Even if we don’t get our money back, justice is made.”
Sally Jacquart and her husband hired Gardin in the summer to build a second-floor addition and reconfigure their existing second floor. They compounded their future woes by deciding to add a basement renovation.
“It’s really an intense and crazy situation,” Jacquart said. “We’re trying to keep our emotions out of it and just move forward.”
Jacquart said they paid GarCon $60,000 and received $10,000-$12,000 worth of work. They have been left without a basement, without flooring on their main floor, and with damage to the items that remain, she said.
Their project was delayed right from its September start date, she said, but Gardin had temporarily convinced them a bad project manager was at fault. They are now living in a rental house with their toddler, facing a new fix-up tab she estimates at $50,000 to $75,000 plus a mounting pile of smaller bills and hassles.
“The dominoes kind of don’t end on this. There’s just so much,” Jacquart said.
She said she would like “full compensation for all the victims, including homeowners, employees and anyone else affected, as well as a full and sincere apology.” Gardin’s letter did not explicitly mention reimbursement.
He concluded: “While GarCon is closed with significantly more liabilities than assets, I am now working with professionals who will help determine if there is anything that can be salvaged for those that have been affected by the closing of GarCon. With much remorse, Adam Gardin.”