This week, a lawsuit was filed by ex-employees and victims of alleged abuse against Buffalo Exchange and Todd Colletti, co-founder of The Buffalo Exchange Colorado Stores and its parent companies Tatanka, Forgotten Works and Watermelon Sugar and their co-founders. The lawsuit also named Scout: Dry Goods & Trade, the store that now operates a similar business at the South Broadway Buffalo Exchange store, as it states “on information and belief” that co-founders of Tanaka are owners and managers at the new store (excluding Colletti) and therefore still liable.
Attorney Ben Lebsack of Lowrey Parady Lebsack, LLC is representing Alyssa Detert, Alex Myers, Amanda Pruess, Clara Pruess and those similarly situated in the case against Colletti. During a press conference held virtually on Tuesday, May 11, Detert, Amanda Pruess, Clara Pruess and victim Megan Parker shared their stories.
Parker is unable to be a plaintiff due to the statute of limitations; however, she openly spoke about her time at Buffalo Exchange. Parker stated that as an employee from 2008-2014, she experienced Colletti’s emotional and physical abuse. “Most of the people that the company hired were young and fairly new to the workforce and didn’t have a realistic idea of what a professional work environment was,” she said.
Colletti allegedly fostered a hypersexualized and toxic work environment in Colorado Buffalo Exchange stores. According to the ex-employees, he thrived off of the power dynamic where he held control. Manipulation was his strong suit. “Whatever it was that you needed, he would give it to you and it was free. Except it wasn’t free. And by the time you realized you were paying for it, it was too late,” Parker said.
Amanda Pruess worked at Buffalo Exchange from 2010-2016. During the press conference, she explained that during her employment, Colletti inappropriately touched her, taunted her and sexually assaulted her. “Todd twisted things so it seemed like the quickest way to get into the inner circle was by getting assaulted,” she said. “This seemed like the norm.”
While Colletti is specifically named, the lawsuit is aimed at Buffalo Exchange as well. The company was said to be aware of Colletti’s actions as these events were unfolding, yet silenced the employees who spoke up about the abuse. “Todd was the perpetrator but he is far from the only guilty party,” Amanda Pruess said.
“Buffalo Exchange allowed and encouraged Todd Colletti to turn the basement of the store into a bar,” Lebsack said.
The plaintiffs all agree that the blame must be directed towards the company as well. “To Buffalo Exchange – you failed us … I do not believe that you ever stood in solidarity with those who suffered at his hands,” Detert said. “You failed to see the gravity of your inaction or you see it and you’re too cowardly to correct your course.”
Clara Pruess reflected on her experience at Buffalo Exchange as well as the abuse her sister faced. Through tears, she explained the devastating impact of “being groomed by a man enabled by a system of silence.”
Addressing the lawsuit, Lebsack noted the action of Kerstin Block, president and co-owner of Buffalo Exchange. In an email to Colletti following information surfacing about his years of abuse on Instagram last year, Block expressed her sympathy toward Colletti about the allegations. “I am sorry that you are accused personally. So far, we are excused more for our business decisions … In sympathy, Kerstin,” Lebsack read from the email exchange.
Lebsack expressed the importance of holding Buffalo Exchange in its entirety accountable. According to a press release from Progressive Promotions, the victims who shared their stories seek “damages including economic restitution … and compensation to make up for harms and injuries like mental pain and suffering, emotional distress, humiliation and impairment of quality of life.”
“Despite you, I’m here today, I am strong, I am still sober and I am not alone,” Detert said, addressing Colletti.