Report: #409555

Complaint Review: Todd Von Stein - Design Shoppe - Designsmith

  • Submitted: Thu, January 08, 2009
  • Updated: Sat, March 02, 2013
  • Reported By: Iowa City, IA Iowa
  • Todd Von Stein - Design Shoppe - Designsmith
    333 E Grand Avenue, Suite 108
    Des Moines, Iowa

Todd Von Stein - Design Shoppe - Designsmith IOWA BEWARE!! You could potentially lose your money! Des Moines Iowa

*Consumer Comment: Note From a Fomer Associate

*General Comment: I will not allow anyone I know to do business with this man

*UPDATE Employee: Comments for the Associate

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I worked on three Iowa City, Iowa construction projects with Todd Michael von Stein and his associates between July 2008 and December 23, 2008. During that time he accumulated our invoices in excess of $10,000 for which we were not paid in full.

I did a public records search on Mr. von Stein at the following web address:

In the last/firm field, I used the following search criteria:

von stein, vonstein, Design Shoppe and Design Street

I found approximately 60 cases in a variety of legal suits against him. In one case he was convicted of theft in the 1st degree with a sentence of 10 years in prison and restitution in excess of $142,000. Records appear to indicate that he spent only a few days in jail and still owes approximately $58,000 on that case alone. According to the public record, he still owes in excess of $200,000 in judgments. In the meantime, many of the plaintiffs, who are hardworking and honest people, have received little restitution while Mr. von Stein walks away and appears to continue his pattern.

In many cases, when presented with an invoice or request for payment, he will promise payment by a certain date or say that the checks are going out (on a certain date) and rarely do they appear in the mail.

We filed mechanic's liens on two of the properties in an attempt to collect. On the first property, the owner was very upset about the lien, but made immediate payment once he understood the entire story behind Mr. von Stein his company.

On the second property, we delivered notice of lien, and expressed our concerns with Mr. von Stein. We said that we had not been paid for any work done since the start of the project 3 months ago. Surprised, the owner said that Mr. von Stein had already received $35,000 on the contract. We explained the lien and suggested that she needed to be sure the subcontractors were paid before Mr. von Stein received final payment.

Upon hearing of the news that we had visited with the owner, Mr. von Stein's associate contacted us with threats of restraining orders and claimed the lien wasn't valid, BUT asked that we remove it immediately. I'm not sure why the associate was so concerned about an INVALID lien. We informed the associate that upon receipt of full payment for services performed on the property, we would gladly release the lien, but only after their check cleared the bank. We were told that the check was mailed on January 5, 2009. By January 7, 2009, the check had not arrived and we told the associate of such. First class mail delivery is only one day from Des Moines to Iowa City. The associate told the owner that we had received the money. The owner then called my business partner and he explained that we hadn't gotten the money and that we would gladly release the lien when certified funds were received from Mr. von Stein.

It is my opinion that the check was never mailed by Mr. von Stein. He and his associate have used the "check is in the mail" and "you will get paid" excuses many times since my association with him. The money rarely appears. On all three jobs with Mr. von Stein, there has been difficulty collecting on work performed. Other subcontractors have and are currently having problems, as well. With a 20-year track record of similar behavior, I believe that NOBODY should trust Mr. von Stein in ANY business dealings.

Mr. von Stein is incredibly persuasive, so beware of him. He will sell himself and his services using his "integrity" as a key selling point. I believe that nothing could be farther from the truth. His track record proves that.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State website, Mr. von Stein has no legal interest in Design Shoppe dba Designsmith. Pamela J. George has 100% interest. That information can be found at the following website:

Search criteria: Design Shoppe

If you are currently doing business with him and are owed money, the use of a mechanic's lien will get his attention and, hopefully, assure payment. Information on mechanic's liens can be found in the Iowa Code Section 572. This information can be found at the following web address:

My rip-off report deals with Todd von Stein only, but the consumer should be aware of other general contractors who could do the same thing. ALWAYS check out anyone with whom you intend to do business.

Please, do your due diligence on Todd Michael von Stein. Ask around, research him online and hopefully you will find enough information to make the intelligent decision to use extreme caution with him.

Concerned Consumer
Iowa City, IA, Iowa
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This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 01/08/2009 09:19 AM and is a permanent record located here: The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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Updates & Rebuttals


#1 Consumer Comment

Note From a Fomer Associate

AUTHOR: Javier - (USA)

Thank you for the most recent post about Todd Von Stein, PRG Todd, Vintage Mid Century Modern & Vino, or Vintage or whatever name Todd is currently hiding behind.  The more people that come out about him the better!

Todd Von Stein is now running 'Vintage Mid Century Modern & Vino' or 'Vintage' in The Teachout Building in East Village where he ran Designsmith into the ground.  Todd changes the name often when people post about him on Ripoff Report.  Funny the landlord of Teachout took him to court for non-payment of rent a few years ago and now they've let him back in. 

In regards to the former associate that defended Todd Von Stein, she was eventually burned by him and has since distanced herself from him.  Todd Von Stein is very controlling and manipulative and I have little doubt that he informed her on exactly what to write.  She learned the hard way as many have when dealing with him.

To Todd's current "business partner": Someone else has outed you on this site last fall, but I won't.  Are you suspicious of him yet?  Is Todd still living well beyond his means and dining out for every meal?  Are you ok with the fact that he went to jail for hitting a woman in Wayne county last year?  I see on Iowa Courts Online that you bailed him out last year, so you must be ok with it. 

It's sad to sit back and watch you go along with Todd Von Stein's behavior knowing that you will be next.  Todd Von Stein has no conscience and has no remorse for stealing from lifelong friends and family members, why would you be any different?  I also have little doubt that the "no" responses to the question "Did you find this post helpful?" on Ripoff Report are you and/or Todd Von Stein.
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#2 General Comment

I will not allow anyone I know to do business with this man

AUTHOR: Deedra J - (United States of America)

To the author:  thank you for posting this.  I happen to know that Todd Von Stein owes several people a lot of money and instead of making good faith efforts to rectify his debts, he provides excuses.  He enters into agreements knowing he will not be keeping up his end of the deal.  He is a shoddy business man and I refuse to allow anyone I know to engage in business with him whether as a partner, contractor or customer.  

To the women who readily jumped in to defend: In the future, when rebutting factual statements, try to keep your personal information out of it.  It doesn't help your case at all.  Anyone can Google Todd Von Stein and refute pretty much everything you tried to defend.  
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#3 UPDATE Employee

Comments for the Associate

AUTHOR: Shelley - (U.S.A.)

As the associate mentioned in the above report as well as the sister of the author, I would like to offer all readers of this report a fair and honest rebuttal. Of myself, I have my Master of Architecture degree, was employed as a city planner for four years, consider myself a good judge of character and upstanding citizen of the community. Though Todd Von Stein is a very likable person, I did not lose perspective or judgment by succumbing to manipulative charm.

I won't encumber you with the all the details of the projects to which my brother refers. (If you would more information contact me at I will tell of my experience with Todd Von Stein and Designsmith, and that the accusations above are strictly suppositions conjured up by my brother and his business partner Frank. I began working with Todd in February of 2008. At the time I was working on a very difficult project with which Todd offered to assist without charge. Up to that time, contractors involved in the project had been unable to provide the expertise and experience needed. Shortly thereafter, I learned of Todd's legal and financial difficulties of several years prior. Because his past was not consistent with the person I had come to know, I continued to work with Todd, but also asked many hard questions. I spoke with subcontractors who had known Todd for over 15 years, satisfied and supportive clients, friends and family. What I learned was that Todd's past was not a result of any malicious scheme to defraud clients or vendors. Rather it was a result of Todd's learning to conduct business in a professional manner. Rather he focused on the work and irresponsibly treated business relationships like casual friendships; he assumed the best of people, and failed to protect himself legally and financially.

Although these experiences could have left him bitter and angry, he took these difficult lessons and chose to make amends both to the honest people he had hurt and to society. Prior to Designsmith, he successfully worked for a number of well established construction companies managing millions of dollars in projects and dozens of employees. He chose to work for multiple companies so he could learn different processes and styles of construction management. He eventually conceived Designsmith and Design Shoppe LLC so he could design and build implementing his passions; passion for service to others; for historic preservation and community service; and excellence in design and construction. Designsmith always has at least one charitable project to which we provide our services. At this time it is working with a historic neighborhood to save a church and a congregation whose generous mission to the community has left them unable to maintain their landmark church.

Designsmith also has in place a very transparent financial accounting system with checks and balances. More than any other company of which I am knowledgeable or have been employed by, employees have considerable access to the financial books. Our books are reviewed monthly by our accountant and recast financials are developed. The failure to pay my brother and other contractors in as timely a manner as we prefer to practice was a result of losing over $20,000 on our first project. In total, the owner of this project left over $125,000 of unpaid invoices to Iowa City contractors and has liens against his property that far exceed its market value. At least three of many companies that financed this client's business now have litigation against him. My brother's allegations of cooked books, rip-off schemes, etc. are COMPLETELY WITHOUT BASIS. His accusations of overcharging clients are TOTALLY FALSE and we are well on our way to our recovery from this first project.

The allegations of my brother are based strictly on his distrust of people and feelings that he has somehow been walked all over by others. He barely knows Todd Von Stein and has made no effort towards knowing him better. I generously allowed my brother to live with me for two years after being laid off from work and separating from his wife. I helped him find work in a trade in which he hadn't been employed since college. Having developed a cynical attitude about people, I sought to introduce him to people whom I thought could restore his trust and faith in others, including his business partner Frank. I wanted to see him succeed and find happiness, and was willing to do anything I could to that ends. Regardless of Todd's reservations to employ family, he knew I believed in my brother's ability, intelligence and decency.

When dissatisfied with our delayed payment schedule and the work provided him, rather than having the integrity and decency to engage in an honest and sincere conversation, he chose the passive aggressive action of launching this report and other internet defamation actions to destroy Designsmith, Todd Von Stein and the people who depends them. He chose to fracture my family as we try to deal with the issue of aging parents and future of our family farm. He chose to insult my intelligence and integrity after all I had done for him. He and Frank involved our client in the dispute by placing a lien on one property to which we have been attempting to pay, but Marty and Frank are claiming to have not received the payment. Payments to all other vendors paid at the same time have since cleared the bank. They also chose to charge us for correcting carpentry mistakes they made. The cost of combating their internet assaults and lost jobs has far exceeded anything that we have owed them. Although I previously said I was a good judge of character, I must admit that I overestimated the character of by brother and Frank.

Todd Von Stein has made mistakes in the past, but today his honesty and integrity are unsurpassed. He takes a minimal salary at Designsmith; just enough to care for his sons and his basic needs. His primary role at Designsmith is to teach the rest of us what he has learned in his 20+ years in the design and construction business. He consistently asks the employees at Designsmith for personal growth and to work to serve others. He believes that if we serve others, success will follow. Humble, hardworking and smart is the mantra that is repeated daily as the criteria for our behavior and the subcontractors whom we hire; criteria which my brother and Frank failed to meet.
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