By Monica Alonzo
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"As far as we're concerned, at that point, she quit," Brazlin says.
Dominguez had not been selling much as an outside salesperson anyway, they say, and some of her pay was withheld before she opened the booth.
Brazlin says Dominguez had advanced herself money out of the store's checking account and her pay was withheld to pay it back to the store.
"I don't think she was stupid, but she couldn't handle money," Brazlin says.
Since taking over the business, Brazlin says he has invested $250,000 of his own money buying new stocks of guitars, amplifiers and other musical gadgetry. The store has been remodeled, adding more floor space and instrument displays.
Jeunette says Arizona Music Center may yet make it out of bankruptcy-court protection. But Dominguez's days at the store's helm are over.
"The lady still has 40 percent of the company," he says.
@body:In mid-May, the battle over Arizona Music Center reached its low point to date. Diana Lee, Dominguez's daughter, tried to launch a boycott of the store. Lee, her children and some musician friends picketed outside the store one Saturday, urging customers to stay away.
Lee, who had worked at the store until she was fired by Jeunette, has taken the changes at her family's store as personally as her mother.
She vehemently contends that Jeunette and Brazlin conspired from the beginning to assume control of her mother's business.
"She was in duress, she was facing bankruptcy," Lee says. "Obviously, the two already had it planned, what they were going to do."
During the picket, Lee and friends passed out fliers urging a boycott. "Did you know that attorney Hyman Brazlin and business partner Donald Jeunette are swindlers?" the fliers read in part. "Don't patronize crooks."
Jeunette and Brazlin responded to the picketing by filing suit against Lee, asking for $5,600 in damages and $5,000 in attorneys' fees. They also successfully sought a restraining order to prevent Lee from continuing her protests.
On May 14, Jeunette showed up at the Swap Mart booth Dominguez is running, bringing with him a videotape camera. He says he wanted to document the fact that Ruby's stand was now competing with the store, and show that the business logo displayed at the booth was a rip-off of the Arizona Music Center logo.
Words passed between Jeunette and a friend of Dominguez's who was manning the booth at the time. Both sides agree that the showdown almost came to blows, but claim the other started the argument.
Jeunette also says that he has received death threats, although he has not reported them to the police and will not discuss who he believes is behind them. "It's a very volatile situation. There's a lot of bitterness," he says. "I go to work every day--and come home--armed."
The incidents underscore the hard feelings between Dominguez and the two men who now control the onetime family business.
Dominguez looks back on each step of the past ten months and sees a continuous trail of incremental deceits that effectively amounted to a legal looting of her store.
Right now, she owns 40 percent of a business that owes her more than $200,000, she points out, but is not allowed on the premises, has no say in how the store is managed and cannot see the books.
She is drawing no pay from her business of 33 years and may soon lose her home, while Jeunette is drawing his salary.
Jeunette and Brazlin, however, cast themselves as reluctant saviors, and say they have done nothing but try to salvage the business. Dominguez had to go, they say, for the store's own good.
"I'm the one who put the money up, and I'm the one that's been putting money in ever since. Does that sound like I'm exploiting her?" Brazlin asks. "How can you exploit her when she had nothing?"
Maybe not much money, Dominguez counters, but she did have more than three decades of good will with steady customers. All she needed, she says, was some help making it over the hump, and that good will would have pulled her back into the clear.
Old customers agree. "That's her life. That place means everything to her," says Al Greenwell, a music instructor who has known Dominguez almost since the store opened. "For a woman her age to lose that, it really hurt her."
Longtime customer Luis Estrada says he has stopped going to the store, because Dominguez is no longer there.
"Music without her," he says, "just doesn't run the scale. You say A-B-C-D-E-F-G, but one thing is not there. Ruby's not there. It just doesn't make the scale.