A small, locally owned bakery in Boise, Idaho, faced a lawsuit from grocery store chain Albertsons, but the franchise cancelled its suit after the community stepped in to support Granny C’s bakery.
In fact, the support was so overwhelming that Granny C’s had to close early on Wednesday. The business was completely sold out within hours, according to KGW-TV.
Now, the controversy is over, as KGW reported that Albertsons had dropped its lawsuit.
The rift between the two businesses arose when Albertsons, which operates a store in the same shopping center as Granny C’s, expressed concerns over illegal competition.
The lawsuit claimed that the bakery was violating the covenant code and restrictions that determine what kind of businesses are allowed in the shopping center.
The CC&R states:
“No portion of the Shopping Center other than the Leased Premises shall be used as a supermarket (which shall be defined as any store or department containing at least 5,000 square feet of floor area, including aisle space and storage, primarily devoted to the retail sale of food for off-premises consumption); as a bakery or delicatessen; for the sale of fresh or frozen meat, fish, poultry or produce for off-premises consumption; or for the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption.”
The relevant portion, according to Albertsons, was the clause regarding bakeries and delicatessens.
Granny C’s fought back, and owner Brad DeBoer was adamant that he had not violated his lease. In his letter of intent, he explicitly mentioned that he would be operating a bakery and listed specific items that he would sell.
DeBoer’s lease did not have the same restrictions that the CC&R did. Instead, the lease stated that “no supermarket exceeding 5,000 [square feet] that includes a bakery” can open in the shopping center.
The lease made no mention of a smaller, independent bakery.
The case hinged almost entirely on the semicolon between the clause about store size and prohibited uses. Was the bakery clause a continuation of the supermarket rule, or was it a separate rule prohibiting a different type of store altogether?
Albertsons’ interpretation differed from that of the landlord, and representatives made that clear in their statement on the matter.
“Albertsons Companies operates grocery stores with other small businesses and tenants in shopping centers locally and around the country, and we recognize how these businesses can help communities thrive,” the company statement read.
“That isn’t what this issue is about. Typically, shopping center businesses have mutual interests, and all can benefit from their neighbors, and our team works hard to ensure we are a good neighbor. All shopping centers are governed by defined covenants — similar to a homeowners or neighborhood association — to protect the value of the respective businesses.
“This is for everyone’s benefit. In this instance, Albertsons seeks to address its landlord’s failure to follow the agreed-upon restrictions. Prior to filing suit, we notified the landlord of our concerns, and the landlord failed to adequately respond. Our objective here is to fairly resolve the situation to the mutual satisfaction of everyone, which is consistent with our business practices.”
Despite Albertsons’ insistence that the lawsuit has nothing to do with Granny C’s specifically, the community came out in droves to support the small business, buying almost everything in the store.
Within just a few hours, the bakery was almost completely cleaned out. DeBoer could hardly contain his emotion when he described what the gesture meant to him and his business.
Granny C’s Bakery is closed today. The owner tells me the support has been overwhelming today following our story on Albertsons suing the bakery and a nearby Growler store. The bakery sold out of nearly everything today and will re-open tomorrow at 6am. pic.twitter.com/g0PeULWhHs
— Joey Prechtl (@JoeyP_News) August 7, 2019
“There is no way that I could not say thank you,” he said. “There has been a huge outpouring, from the community. The amount of appreciation showed for our business has been immense.”
He also added that the continued existence of Granny C’s could hang on the result of the lawsuit.
“I don’t see a way out for us — it’s here or bust,” he lamented before Albertsons dropped its suit.
Luckily for DeBoer, he didn’t have to find out if Granny C’s would survive. Instead, he can rest in the knowledge that the people of Boise support his bakery.
This case demonstrated just how much small businesses mean to the community at large, and what the community means to small businesses.
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