In the year since Bill the Butcher CEO J’Amy Owens absconded with workers’ paychecks as the six stores shut down, employees of the tiny, always-unprofitable public company have learned some hard lessons.

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In the year since Bill the Butcher CEO J’Amy Owens absconded with workers’ paychecks as the six stores shut down, employees of the tiny, always-unprofitable public company have learned some hard lessons.

“Winning a lawsuit is one thing — collecting the money is another,” says Sarah Curtis, who’d worked at the chain for more than two years.

“Maybe I should have asked a few more questions, should have known what I was getting into,” says Andy Shaw, who joined the company as interim operations manager just three months before it finally collapsed one Friday last October. “While the ship was sinking, I was the guy telling the staff everything was going to be all right.”

Of course it wasn’t all right. The 53-year-old Owens, once a well-regarded retail consultant who founded Bill the Butcher in 2009, dropped out of sight in October 2014 after diverting a $108,000 state tax-refund check that should have covered her employees’ overdue paychecks.

That came soon after a former friend and fellow retail consultant, Sunny Kobe Cook, excoriated Owens in blog posts for not repaying $50,000 in loans.

Days after the shutdown, The Seattle Times reported the cash-strapped company had paid several hundred thousand dollars towards the future purchase of a posh five-bedroom Queen Anne home where Owens and her daughter were living; the arrangement was described to stockholders as a company lease of “corporate facilities.”

Shaw recalls sitting for his job interview in that elegant Tudor-style house, thinking, “This is one of those people who is really successful.” Owens was evicted as the company unraveled.

Left in the lurch, Shaw and 10 others sued Owens and the defunct company for their unpaid wages. Most were owed several thousand; one was due $9,276 in gross wages. For a while, some of them “could barely afford to put food on the table,” says Shaw.

Jason Cook, former manager of Bill the Butcher’s Magnolia store, says even collecting unemployment benefits took extra weeks because the company had not been filing the required reports. Financially, he says, “The several months that I was out of work really set me back.”

Owens did not respond to the lawsuit. Superior Court Judge Samuel Chung ruled in February that with pay, damages and interest, the 11 employees are owed $76,453.

His ruling says Owens acted “to divert the funding paycheck from the payroll account” to another under her sole control, then “refused to pay the wages … (and) ceased responding to requests from her corporate managers.”

Their Seattle attorney, Michael Jacobson, has not been able to locate Owens or any assets to seize. Cook, likewise, reports “no luck in collecting what I’m owed.”

Curtis, whose family of five relied on that check for their monthly mortgage payment, says she had qualms about spending on a lawyer to pursue the case. But she decided, “It was the principle — ‘You took money from us that we worked hard for.’ I need to do this.”

Shaw says the dilemma is that to hunt further for Owens, “we would have had to shell out more money.”

The employees remain hopeful that someone who knows where Owens might be will get in touch with their attorney.

Meanwhile, the betrayal by a boss who espoused all sorts of commitment to better food and wholesome living still stings.

Says Curtis: “This woman, our leader, stole from us.”