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Rick's Steaks Leaving RTM?


rlibkind
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Of course, as I write this, the RTM may have carpenters hard at work making it impossible for Rick to open. Or maybe they've just shut off his gas, electric and water and padlocked his freezers and refrigerators.

I am surprised that with the management's inept instinct for PR self-destruction they did not do that.

Another question for anyone who can answer or hazard a guess: if Rick was seeking a TRO, did his attorney fail to file for an emergency hearing, or did he file and get turned down? Or, despite what he told the news media, did he not file at all? Or his is attorney waiting for an actual eviction attempt before seeking a court order?

As I understand it, there was nothing to restrain (get a TRO) until RTM Management handed Rick's an eviction notice.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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It's been discussed, but I need to point out that the Dutch Festival would have been a big revenue bump for the Amish, and the market as a whole. Therefore, the cancellation of it must be to show allegiance for Mr. Oliveri.

As much as I like Tony Luke's, I'd hate for them to present themselves as market bully.

Lisa K

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"No one wants black olives, sliced 2 years ago, on a sandwich, you savages!" - Jim Norton, referring to the Subway chain.

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I kept waiting for this story to become less lopsided but it hasn't. RTM Management seems incredibly hamfisted and arrogant.

Tony Luke's is an amazing local institution, but they aren't known for their cheese steaks and their record of opening and close up shops should concern any rational organization that expects them to be an anchor tenant.

It's amazing to this outsider that RTM Mgmt is so intent on making themselves the bad guys.

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Text version of KYW Radio report, including comments from mayor and tourism officials that dispute won't harm tourism business.

Inquirer update, noting that RTM Manager Paul Steinke personally gave Rick the eviction notice about 10 a.m.

This afternoon Steinke confirmed he had delivered the eviction notice, but as of 2:30 p.m. had yet to be served with any legal papers from Olivieri. He was, however, expecting to be served.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

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From the KYW story:

Mayor Street says he has not followed the battle over Rick’s Steaks closely, but he doubts that Market management would act capriciously:

 

“The Reading Terminal is an integral part of the City of Philadelphia, and it's hard for me to imagine that anybody would be put out of a business space without good reason.”

Last year Reading Terminal Market evicted four merchants. The order was later rescinded for two and they are still around. As I understand it the other two were considerably behind in their rent and they are gone.

Not paying rent. Certainly grounds for eviction. For the other two, Franks-A-Lot and, I believe the Tokyo Sushi Bar, good fortune. They settled their differences with the market management and their evictions were rescinded. Reasonable and just actions on the part of a landlord. Market management not acting at all capriciously.

So why is RTM management so unwavering with Rick's Steaks? What is so special about Rick's Steaks that it has to go? No matter what, Rick's Steaks has to go.

Was Rick's Steaks behind in rent? No. Serving a lousy product? No. Running a dirty operation? No. Violating sections of their lease? No. Doing anything at all wrong? No.

Neither of the two evicted businesses that later were so magnanimously reprieved by the market board and management has anywhere near the 25 years longevity of Rick's Steaks. Neither of the owners of the two businesses that survived eviction has made anywhere near the contribution of Rick Olivieri who played a major role in turning the market around twenty some years ago and who has led the merchant's association for a number of years.

Reading Terminal Market's management's only rationale for ousting Rick's Steaks - a gushy, starry-eyed, "We can get Tony Luke's."

Does Mayor Street, who incidentally has a great deal of pull with the Board through his appointments, really believe that market management is "not acting capriciously" - that "We can get Tony Luke's" is "good reason" for the market board and management to evict Rick's Steaks? Does the mayor really buy the board and management's flimsy stand that Tony Luke's who is not really famous for their cheesesteaks should replace the grandson of the man who invented the cheesesteak?

A man's livelihood is being taken away. If the Reading Terminal Market board and management has its way, the business that Rick Olivieri's father established and passed on to him, and that would have continued in his family for generations will be gone. Vanished.

Capricious! Capricious! Capricious!

Or not.

This whole thing smells worse than the discarded fish rotting in the market's dumpsters. Perhaps the most valuable business location in the market is taken away from one business for no cause and then given away to another business? One can imagine Deep Throat lurking in the shadows of Filbert Street, hoarsely whispering, "When nothing else makes sense - Follow the money. Follow the money."

Something is very wrong here. The RTM board and management can not be allowed to succeed. Their actions should probably be investigated.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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Back to topic. The real sleeping giant in all of this is still Whole Foods. That giant will awake with a booming voice when it opens on 15th and Vine ... with a food court ... with parking... and within a few walking minutes from the convention center. While conventioneers will still find it convenient to walk across the street to grab lunch, some of the non-lunch vendors are going to take a hit. What could evolve is a quirky food court with Amish earrings, that is the food purveyors become ornaments.

You have a point, but WFM already has a store within walking distance of some of the RTM's customers, at 929 South Street, and the 15th and Vine store will replace one currently open at 20th and Callowhill/Pennsylvania Ave.

Between the RTM and the new WFM site is not all that much, residentially speaking. I seriously doubt that many Chinatown denizens will opt to pay WFM prices, as that neighborhood is Center City's poorest; besides, a lot of what they want the RTM doesn't carry either -- small grocers right in the neighborhood have that.

IOW, I don't think that a WFM relocated so it's closer to the RTM than it is now is going to take a bigger chunk of business away from the store than the chain's two stores on the edges of Center City already do.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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If nothing else Reading Terminal Management is brutally efficient. As of today Rick's Steaks has been removed from their online Market Map and List of Merchants

In Rick's Steak's place, nothingness.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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First, Whole Foods is opening at 17th and Race. Not all that much closer, and not a draw for conventioneers.

Second, there really is a win-win solution to this incredible (gross understatement here) PR fiasco for potentially all parties involved. All the market needs to do is offer the former Foster's stall to Tony Luke's if they absolutely must have them in the market. Limit them to making cheesesteaks only. Keep Rick's where it is. Then, should a kitchen product merchant ever materialize (they haven't been exactly waiting in the wings), erect a new space for them either near the Beer Garden or the Spice Terminal and be done with it. Rick wins because he gets to stay, Tony Luke wins because he gets a space in the market, and the Market wins because they get Tony Luke's and by showing that they indeed have a conscience, avoids further alienating the public. They could even make up some excuse that the Foster's space suddenly became available, and would come out smelling like a rose. Oh yeah, and the Amish win because they can have the Dutch Festival.

Edited by Bluehensfan (log)
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Now I've heard everything (from Philebrity)...

Philebrity has learned today a whole slew of information regarding the Rick’s Steaks verus Reading Terminal Market versus Tony Luke’s controversy currently dominating local news. Earlier today, we heard from a source close to the situation that while much of the press regarding Rick Olivieri’s ousting from Terminal has pitted Olivieri against fellow sandwich-maker Tony Luke, no lease has yet been proffered or signed for Luke to open up a space. We called Luke’s publicist, George Polgar, who confirms this. According to Polgar, Tony Luke’s official involvement with the Reading Terminal at this time amounts to not much more than a letter of intent to review a lease on a space in the Market — essentially a legal document saying, “Yes, I will look at a lease when the time comes.”

But like so much cold Cheese Whiz, the plot thickens: Polgar went on to tell us that the first Tony Luke had learned of Olivieri’s ousting was when the rest of us did, on the news a few weeks back. “Nobody at the RTM had brought up the situation with Rick,” says Polgar. Furthermore, Tony Luke didn’t think twice about sharing floor space with Olivieri: They already both have stalls at Citizen’s Bank Park. (It’s also important to keep in mind that, purported media wars aside, Rick’s is known for cheesesteaks, and Tony Luke’s is famous for roast pork, broccoli rabe, and so on; so while Tony Luke’s does in fact serve cheesesteaks, this is not the head-to-head war it’s made out to be. In fact, in preliminary discussion, the RTM told Tony Luke they would not have a space available for him until October.) So if free market competition is not at the heart of the Rick’s ousting, then what is? Same as it ever was: For years, Olivieri headed up the merchant’s association at the Terminal, going to mat for his fellow vendors. Keep in mind that the RTM is essentially run by the city, and like anything else run by the city, the RTM is a petty fiefdom run on the noxious fumes of patronage and ego wars. As evidenced by his standoff today, Olivieri apparently has brass balls and has surely pissed some people off.

As for Tony Luke, Polgar emphatically states: “He’s not making a move until this [conflict between the Terminal and Olivieri] is resolved.” And what a resolution it looks like it’ll be: We are also hearing that none other than District Attorney Lynne Abraham will be brought in to mediate. Stay tuned with Philebrity as we continue to follow this utterly bonkers Piece Of Everything That Makes Philadelphia Great.

http://www.philebrity.com/2007/08/01/phile...eesesteak-wars/

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First, Whole Foods is opening at 17th and Race. Not all that much closer, and not a draw for conventioneers.

Second, there really is a win-win solution to this incredible (gross understatement here) PR fiasco for potentially all parties involved. All the market needs to do is offer the former Foster's stall to Tony Luke's if they absolutely must have them in the market. Limit them to making cheesesteaks only. Keep Rick's where it is. Then, should a kitchen product merchant ever materialize (they haven't been exactly waiting in the wings), erect a new space for them either near the Beer Garden or the Spice Terminal and be done with it. Rick wins because he gets to stay, Tony Luke wins because he gets a space in the market, and the Market wins because they get Tony Luke's and by showing that they indeed have a conscience, avoids further alienating the public. They could even make up some excuse that the Foster's space suddenly became available, and would come out smelling like a rose. Oh yeah, and the Amish win because they can have the Dutch Festival.

From one of Foster's RTM neighbors, Kitchen Kapers is looking into that site and loosing the demo area.

Jim Tarantino

Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, & Glazes

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IOW, I don't think that a WFM relocated so it's closer to the RTM than it is now is going to take a bigger chunk of business away from the store than the chain's two stores on the edges of Center City already do.

I'd just like to add to Sandy's point that there are a whole class of people -- I count myself among them -- who come into Philadelphia with the express purpose of shopping in the Reading Terminal Market. For us, the proximity of a Whole Foods Market is completely irrelevant.

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First, Whole Foods is opening at 17th and Race. Not all that much closer, and not a draw for conventioneers.

Second, there really is a win-win solution to this incredible (gross understatement here) PR fiasco for potentially all parties involved. All the market needs to do is offer the former Foster's stall to Tony Luke's if they absolutely must have them in the market. Limit them to making cheesesteaks only. Keep Rick's where it is. Then, should a kitchen product merchant ever materialize (they haven't been exactly waiting in the wings), erect a new space for them either near the Beer Garden or the Spice Terminal and be done with it. Rick wins because he gets to stay, Tony Luke wins because he gets a space in the market, and the Market wins because they get Tony Luke's and by showing that they indeed have a conscience, avoids further alienating the public. They could even make up some excuse that the Foster's space suddenly became available, and would come out smelling like a rose. Oh yeah, and the Amish win because they can have the Dutch Festival.

From one of Foster's RTM neighbors, Kitchen Kapers is looking into that site and loosing the demo area.

I heard thhat they were looking into the site. Kind of odd considering they are a chain. But seeing what's been happening at RTM lately, not all that out of the ordinary. Hopefully that's the last thing associated with chains that will come to RTM.

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What with the news Philebrity broke (which also appears in this morning's Daily News), this has moved from PR blunder to blunder.

The law may be on the Market's side, but this news now makes it clear that this was done from pure spite -- there can be no other explanation. If there is, it is up to the RTM management to provide it. And at this point, getting us to buy it is going to be a much, much harder job.

What was in that February e-mail, Mr. Dunston?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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I heard thhat they were looking into the site. Kind of odd considering they are a chain. But seeing what's been happening at RTM lately, not all that out of the ordinary. Hopefully that's the last thing associated with chains that will come to RTM.

The last of chains? Yeah right. To RTM's management way of thinking - things go better with Coke. At least the hints to the markets direction are far from subtle.

Jim Tarantino

Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, & Glazes

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well to be fair, kitchen kapers is a chain, but they're a chain that started here and is based in cherry hill. and if you are going to have a kitchenware shop in the terminal, what are your local non-chain options besides fosters, who just left, and fante's? has fante's shown any interest in branching out in their 100 years?

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Actually, yes.. Fante's had a shop in the King of Prussia mall years ago... So they did try branching out at least once. If I knew that, somebody doing due diligence at the RTM management should as well. Maybe an invitation, like to Tony Luke, should have been dispatched. Maybe it was. Who knows?

Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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Your skepticism is understandable, Jim, but the Coke example you raise actually undercuts your argument -- go back and reread that thread; Market management actively discouraged merchants from responding to Coke's overtures with not-so-subtle reminders, and to its credit, Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company ultimately backed off.

And of all the new businesses that have set up shop in the RTM in the decade-plus since the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority acquired it, about the only one that IMO might even remotely fit the definition of "chain" is LeBus, whose products are distributed in stores and served in restaurants throughout the region. I wouldn't begrudge local entrepreneurs like Delilah Winder multiple locations within the area; it's clear to me that the Operating Guidelines are meant not to exclude people like these from the Market but rather the franchise operations that we all know would destroy its character.

The management may not be handling Rick Oliveri well, but they have demonstrated that they understand what is and isn't a local merchant, and I see no signs that they are even contemplating bending their Operating Guidelines, let alone flagrantly disregarding them.

Edited to add: I see that Delilah Winder's name generates an Amazon.com context link to her cookbook, Delilah's Everyday Soul: Southern Cooking with Style. Now, context links like that make sense. And her story, as summarized on the description page for the book, can only be called a Reading Terminal Market success story:

Delilah Winder left a career as a business analyst to open her one-woman food stand in Philadelphia’s historic Reading Terminal Market. Today, she employs more than 60 people who work in six Delilah’s Southern Cuisine stands. In 2000, she opened Bluezette, a Latin, Caribbean, and soul food restaurant in Philadelphia’s Old City district. Delilah’s food has received numerous accolades, including Best Mac & Cheese by Oprah Winfrey, 100 Favorite Foods by Saveur Magazine, and Best of Philly.
Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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Reading Terminal Market spokesman Kevin Feeley's big problem is that he'd rather be terse than accurate. If only he took the time to finish his sentences.

Earlier in this fiasco, "It's unfortunate that Mr. Olivieri is putting his interests above those of Reading Terminal Market." Feeley meant to say, "It's unfortunate that Mr. Olivieri is putting his interests above those of Reading Terminal Market's board and management."

In todays Daily News, Feeley, speaking about the market's relationship with Tony Luke's, is quoted, "We have a letter of intent. He's made it clear he doesn't want to complete negotiations until after this business with Rick Olivieri is cleared up." Feeley could have been clearer. "We have a letter of intent where Tony Luke Jr. agrees to read a lease offer..." Big Deal. Key word is read. Tony Luke Jr. has not agreed to sign a lease, just consider one.

And in today's Inquirer, Feeley apologized, "One of the truly unfortunate elements in this is the impact this has had on Tony Luke. He runs a family-owned and -operated business, and they just want the opportunity." Alas, Feeley failed to complete his lament, "The RTM Board and Management apologizes to Tony Luke Jr. for putting him in such an tenuous position."

Relatedly, one wonders about the longterm employment of the "Rumsfeld" on the RTM management payroll who assured the board, "Don't worry, there'll be a little fuss and it will quickly blow over."

Any word on Tony Luke Jr.'s press conference today?

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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Holly, c'mon.

How can you say what Feeley meant to say?

I've expressed my opinion with a personal story that I choose not to beat to death. I'm living it, brother.

Reading Terminal Market spokesman Kevin Feeley's big problem is that he'd rather be terse than accurate.  If only he took the time to finish his sentences.

Earlier in this fiasco, "It's unfortunate that Mr. Olivieri is putting his interests above those of Reading Terminal Market."  Feeley meant to say, "It's unfortunate that Mr. Olivieri is putting his interests above those of Reading Terminal Market's board and management."

In todays Daily News, Feeley, speaking about the market's relationship with Tony Luke's, is quoted, "We have a letter of intent. He's made it clear he doesn't want to complete negotiations until after this business with Rick Olivieri is cleared up."  Feeley could have been clearer. "We have a letter of intent where Tony Luke Jr. agrees to read a lease offer..."  Big Deal.  Key word is read.  Tony Luke Jr. has not agreed to sign a lease, just consider one.

And in today's Inquirer, Feeley apologized, "One of the truly unfortunate elements in this is the impact this has had on Tony Luke. He runs a family-owned and -operated business, and they just want the opportunity."  Alas, Feeley failed to complete his lament, "The RTM Board and Management apologizes to Tony Luke Jr. for putting him in such an tenuous position."

Relatedly, one wonders about the longterm employment of the "Rumsfeld" on the RTM management payroll who assured the board, "Don't worry, there'll be a little fuss and it will quickly blow over."

Any word on Tony Luke Jr.'s press conference today?

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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It's a curse Charlie, but I have learned to live with it. Just trying to help Kevin Feeley be more candid.

Beyond that I'm sticking with it because I am pissed off at the injustice of the RTM management's and board's actions. At the least they are arrogant, petty and vindictive. I don't want the story to die off until market management does the right thing and lets Rick's Steaks stay. Hopefully I'm doing more than tilting at windmills.

No self interest on my part, not even a free cheesesteak. And I've probably blown my chance of ever opening up a HollyEats dog and burger stand at the market.

Edited to add: If we were talking about Rick's Steaks at Citizen's Bank Stadium or at some shopping mall I probably would have dropped it a long time ago. But this is happening at an institution that has been part of Philadelphia for over 100 years. What the market is trying to do - kick out a business that has been there, in the same family, for over 25 years and that has played such a substantial and positive role in the market's evolution - strikes me as totally going against the mission of an urban farmer's market and the tradition of Reading Terminal Market.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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Reading Terminal Market spokesman Kevin Feeley's ...

"It's unfortunate that Mr. Olivieri is putting his interests above those of Reading Terminal Market." 

Did Feeley really say that?

RTM is effectively Rick Steak's only location. The ballpark concessions from my understanding are officially Aramark operations. The companies involved are actively involved with their concessions, but they ultimately are Aramark operations with employees getting Aramark paychecks.

Oliveri is supposed to lose his main source of income, get shafted by management of RTM and then suck it up for the good of the market?

The upside is that all of the other merchants there now know where they stand. If the management is going to shaft a 25yr tenant, then the merchants know not to put down roots or invest too much in their RTM location. It is like when the giant insurance company I worked for suddenly switched from a great place to work to a truly horrible one. It took some adjustment but I learned to keep my desk ready to clear out quickly and to have a what's in it for me attitude at all times with management. I learned to always look out for myself and learned not to care what was good for the company because they could shaft me (or any employee) on a whim. It's not how I like to deal with people, but that was the situation.

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The upside is that all of the other merchants there now know where they stand. If the management is going to shaft a 25yr tenant, then the merchants know not to put down roots or invest too much in their RTM location.

The thing is, for most of the RTM's merchants, their RTM location is their only location. They and the Market as a whole depend on each other.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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The thing is, for most of the RTM's merchants, their RTM location is their only location.  They and the Market as a whole depend on each other.

Yeah, the good thing is (if they are wise) they now know they need a back-up plan that doesn't rely on the whims of RTM management.

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I'm not sure how one goes about changing the RTM's charter or whatever it is that sets the board of directors - but that there is only one merchant representative on the board is disgraceful.

It is the merchants that have made Reading Terminal Market what it is, not the management that comes and goes, or the RTM board that changes as city politics change. There are two constants - the merchants, many of whom are second and third generation, and the customers, many of whom are third, fourth and fifth generation.

These people, the merchants and the customers, are the ones that have the best interest of the market as their number one priority. They are the ones that should have the say - not the Vice President of Finance for the Convention Center or some guy that manages the airport retail franchises.

Other members of the board, along with the obvious political appointments, include representatives of the RTM Preservation Fund and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. One would expect these organizations to be pro market tradition.

William Blades is listed as representing the Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, but he appears to be no longer active with the Alliance. He is/was vice president of the RTM Preservation Fund. Paul Steinke, RTM manager is on the board of the Alliance.

Neither Google nor Yahoo can tell me that much about the RTM Preservation Fund. It just says they have a member on the RTM Board and that two of their employees have made contributions in 2006/2007 to Philadelphia mayoral candidates.

So what is the RTM Preservation Fund? What do they do?

It all seems very confusing and inbred.

After the current fiasco ends, attention should be focused on making the RTM Board far more representative of the merchants and the market's regular customers.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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Your skepticism is understandable, Jim, but the Coke example you raise actually undercuts your argument -- go back and reread that thread; Market management actively discouraged merchants from responding to Coke's overtures with not-so-subtle reminders, and to its credit, Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company ultimately backed off.

I saw that after I zapped it out.

Pulling the rug out from under merchants is not so unique to RTM. Out in the burbs we have a collection of Farmer’s Markets or maybe the term Fauxmer Markets is more applicable in the light of the fact that there are no real farmers actually participating in them. One such case occurred when the management of Albrecht’s Farmer’s Market (Narberth/Penn Valley) pulled the lease out from on all of their clients at the same time. This was a small market with a little over half dozen merchants, some doing well, and some struggling.

Management had worked out a deal with someone who would occupy the entire property. Less fuss with just one lease and one rent check. The merchants were on a month to month lease. Two of the merchants rebounded back with storefronts elsewhere but most of them just lost a piece or their entire livelihood. Turns out the new client pulled out of the deal at the last minute and the market stood idle for a few years. Some merchants were dropped when the Ardmore Farmer’s Market moved across the street in Suburban Square. As much as I hate to say it, most folks will just keep shopping and most folks will keep eating steaks.

Jim Tarantino

Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, & Glazes

Ten Speed Press

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