Northeast Ohio boutique owners facing sexual assault lawsuit


Photo by Jerusha Jacob

Winds of Change Boutique LLC is compiled of two Winds of Change storefronts and one Gypsy Sole storefront, all located within Northeast Ohio.

Ella Schuellerman, Arts & Life Editor

The owners of multiple Ohio boutiques are facing a lawsuit alleging sexual assault and negligence. The stores are the Northeast Ohio Winds of Change boutiques and the Gypsy Sole clothing store in Chagrin Falls and Hudson. Winds of Change has a history of marketing to college students from John Carroll University as well as Kent State and Case Western Reserve universities.  

On Aug.19, a civil lawsuit was filed with the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts against Winds of Change Boutique owners David Walker and Angela Huang including allegations of sexual assault, aiding and abetting discrimination, assault, battery and negligence. The Carroll News held this story to await a filing by the defense, which according to the state of Ohio had 28 days to file their answer. A rough calculation by The Carroll News put that date at Sept. 16, but the defendant did not file until Sept. 18. 

Nearing the end of their filing response time Walker, Huang and the boutique hired two attorneys from law firm Gorden Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP to defend them in court. Commercial Litigation Associate Viktorija Zdraveva and Partner Tyler Tarney at the firm will go head to head with the plaintiffs’ attorney. Despite no court dates scheduled, the case has been assigned to Judge William T. McGinty. Tarney was added to the case on Sept. 18 and Zdraveva was added on Sept. 24.

Walker and Huang own two Winds of Change clothing stores, in Chagrin Falls and Hudson, Ohio, and one Gypsy Sole clothing store located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The Court of Common Pleas Complaint, filed by attorney Matthew D. Besser, states that many of the employees are young women in their late teens or early 20s who are seeking future careers in fashion, some hired while they were minors.

The Complaint, a detailed document filed with the Court of Common Pleas to launch the civil lawsuit, states that parents of an underage female employee contacted the store in regards to Walker’s behavior, which included unwanted sexual overtures, in February. “Rather than protect her, Defendants (Walker and Huang) retaliated against the employee by permanently removing her from the workplace,” states the report. As months passed, the document states, four more employees came forward claiming they had been sexually harassed. 

The three plaintiffs (the people suing the store owners) named in the document, whose names are not being published because they are alleged victims of sexual assault, are former employees. Additional accounts of sexual assault and negligence are described in the complaint by three more unnamed Jane Does, bringing the number of possible victims to six. 

According to the allegations in the complaint document, “Walker used his position to get himself alone with them in the store after hours. There, he gave them alcohol and pressured them to drink until they were extremely intoxicated. Once his young employees were too drunk to consent, Walker pressured them to engage in sexual activity with him.” 

Additional allegations include forcefully groping two of the employees by trying to push his hands into their underwear and slapping the buttocks of an employee more than once. The victims stated that the store managers, both owners and head of Human Resources Mary Iacobucci, had been made aware of the allegations and assault claims several times prior to the lawsuit being filed. “Instead of correcting Walker’s behavior, Iacobucci said that the Defendants’ solution was to no longer employ minors,” stated one Jane Doe’s account.

A former employee not included in the lawsuit told The Carroll News she was not surprised by the allegations against Walker. “I did feel uncomfortable at times, due to the comments David would make. He often talked about my personal relationships and told customers we met on Tindr. I am glad these women are stepping forward. That takes a lot of courage,” she said. The former employee requested anonymity when contacted on Sept. 7.

When the plaintiffs’ law firm, Bolek Besser Glesius, was contacted for comment, Besser said, “We stand by the allegations in the Complaint. We are going to prove that they are true. If any witnesses have information, we encourage them to come forward and tell the truth about their experiences.”

When the Hudson Winds of Change and Chagrin Falls Gypsy Sole stores were contacted for comment by a Carroll News reporter, she was directed to the manager of Gypsy Sole, Ellway Huang, to speak on behalf of the stores’ management. Huang declined to comment on the lawsuit and allegations stating, “I have no information for you,” when reached on Friday, Sept. 3.