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Holly Moore

Harry G. Ochs Faces Eviction

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i hear you and don't disagree, but how long do you work with the tenant? showing favoritism to a long time tenant versus a newer tenant in similiar situation could open you up to law suit.

if i was a newer tenant behind on rent and facing eviction and i found out a longer term tenant, also in arrears, was getting preferential treatment i would be getting an attorney involved. probably not what rtm management wants.

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Don't know the answer to that. Is a landlord required to treat all tenants the same or is each lease a separate contract between a single tenant and the landlord? Can a landlord take tenant longevity or intangible tenant contributions to the landlords continued operation into account?

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i dont know how you write that into a contract either.

"if you have been a tenant here x amount of years you are allowed to be x amount of months in arrears on rent. but if you work with us and take our marketing advice you are allowed to be further in arrears. if you are in arrears and don't take advantage of our offer to help your business you can only be ......etc."

which begs the question, if the rtm possesses some unique marketing skills that can help a tenant's business, why wait to offer that help until you are behind in rent?

as long as och's isn't replaced with some crappy chain or local chain pizza place, or what have you, i don't really have a problem with evicting a tenant when they are a year behind on rent. sad when it's a long time tenant who has helped shaped the markets image but i just don't see how you can keep on giving them preferential treatment when the other tenants are paying their rent in a timely fashion.

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I'm not saying it has to be incorporated into a lease. I'm asking if a landlord is legally required to treat each tenant the same?

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Alas, legal requirements have precious little to do with whether or not you get your ass sued off.

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I'm not saying it has to be incorporated into a lease. I'm asking if a landlord is legally required to treat each tenant the same?

i would think; yes. especially if each tenant has a similiar lease. which is why i think if you are going to treat tenants differently when it comes to being in arrears that would need to be written into the lease.

but i am no lawyer and could be totally wrong.

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No more a lawyer than you, but... A lease, like any contract, lays out each party's rights and obligations. Each tenant has a right to expect the landlord to respect their rights as specified, and to meet the landlord's obligations. But no-one gets any say on whether or not you go above and beyond those. In other words, the Market cannot short-change a tenant, but I think they can give preferential treatment, as long as that does not impinge on other tenants' rights. I imagine that can get murky, though: marketing Ochs could be argued to work against Martin's or Giunta's interests, for instance.

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Alas, I owe the market management an apology. Much happened behind the scenes of which I was not aware. Not sure what details can be made public, but suffice to say I leapt to some conclusions I should not have. The market did quite a lot to support Harry Och's and Sons - just about everything I was listing that they should have done.

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Since both Holly and I received the same email yesterday from Paul Steinke, RTM general manager, about the Ochs situation, there's no reason not to make it more widely known, since Paul's reason in sending it to both of us was to get the info out into the public domain. Here are the salient points Steinke made:

For the past several years, Market management has worked hard to help the Ochs stand find firmer footing. In fact, we have devoted more time to them than to any other merchant here. We met with them countless times. We arranged free consulting services for them with the Wharton Small Business Development Center. We offered them tenant improvement financing. We agreed to rent discounts that no other tenant was privy to. We offered numerous, generous payment plans (all of them broken).

As their account got further and further behind, we held off legal action for years in deference to the Ochs name and what they contributed to the Market, and later, because Harry was sick. Once Harry died, however, we felt that it was time for the Ochs stand to carry its weight in the Market along with the other merchants. So we gave them one more chance.

Last summer, Nick signed a new lease. But he started falling behind almost immediately. So, after years of holding back, we finally had no choice but to initiate the legal process to enforce the lease. Nick filed for Chapter 11 protection in early April. Two weeks later the court dismissed the filing.

So in the quiet of the evening on Monday, after the Market had closed for the day, and with the re-scheduled eviction date approaching, Nick backed his truck up to the Market and packed up. No notice was given to us, to his fellow merchants, or even to his own employees.

We are saddened by the loss of the Ochs name, but I take solace in knowing we did all we could to help them and to maintain an environment conducive to their success. I also take solace in the general prosperity of the great majority of the rest of the Market’s merchants, who work hard, serve their customers well and pay their bills.

There's no reason a butcher can't thrive in the market, as Charles Giunta has shown with his relatively new shop. Where Giunta's is strictly a butcher (having given up on his rotisserie chicken experiment), Ochs had tried to move into deli and prepared food -- at least half of the case were filled with either items for reheating at home or Boar's Head cold cuts -- with little success.

Nick did less and less of cutting meats to order in the last few years. I continued to shop there for chuck ground to my order for burgers, even as little as a pound which Nick and his staff happily provided. I would also occasionally buy a chicken breast or piece of lamb there, but Giunta (and to a lesser extent his brother Martin) had won over a good hunk of my meat-buying loyalty. In addition, those who have more knowledge about the subject than I say that Nick's butchering skills, while good, just weren't up to the level of his father and late brother, Harry Jr.

That move to prepared and deli items was undoubtedly an attempt to keep the business viable, since few people were prepared to pay the prices Ochs had to charge for his excellent prime, dry aged beef. And those who were willing to consider meat as an investment vehicle spent most of their dollars at Whole Foods -- my market sources tell me Ochs took a big hit in revenue when Whole Foods opened at Callowhill and 20th Street and never recovered. (Even I, maybe three or four times a year, buy from the butcher case there.)

There are neither heroes nor villains in this story. Just changing times that exempt no individual or institution from its demands.


Edited by rlibkind (log)

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Alas, I owe the market management an apology. Much happened behind the scenes of which I was not aware. Not sure what details can be made public, but suffice to say I leapt to some conclusions I should not have. The market did quite a lot to support Harry Och's and Sons - just about everything I was listing that they should have done.

You're a mensch, Holly.

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The 1940s photo mural of Harry Ochs and his father, which adorned the wall alongside the butcher stall, was among the items take by Nick "Ochs" Finocchio when he decamped in the dead of night May 2 from the Reading Terminal Market. It now awaits hanging at Nick's new digs, the Main Street Market in Manayunk.

The large historic print, like others scattered throughout the market, was made in the 1980s under the auspices of David K. O'Neil, general manager of the market when it was still owned by The Reading Company. So when Nick took the physical print, he was taking something that didn't belong to him.

At the same time, the original photo probably came from the Ochs family, so if that's true, when Nick told me "It's my photo" he would be correct, in the sense that it's his intellectual property. Of course, when the Ochses permitted the market to reproduce the photo, they were essentially granting permission to the market to use the photograph in public. And while I imagine a lawyer would say the family has the right to prohibit the market from publicly displaying the photo, they don't have the right to walk off with a print that the market paid to make and mount.

All these legal niceties aside, it's too bad that the only physical remnant of the Ochs business left behind is the lettering signage on the meat hook posts. It's almost as sad as the fact that Nick and market management couldn't find a way to keep the business going within the historic market.

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A correction to my earlier reference, with erroneously suggested the Ochs family adopted Nick's father. They didn't. And it was Nick's grandfather who originally joined the business. The paragraph should have read:

It was wrenching for Steinke and the market to lose the Ochs business, which moved there only 14 years after the market opened its doors in 1892. Nick's grandfather joined the business in the first half of the century and adopted the Ochs name when he took it over. Indeed, his son Harry was better known as Harry Ochs than as Harry Finocchio. When the market's future was threatened by the proposed construction of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, it was Harry Finocchio who was a key player in preserving the market and pressuring the center to renovate the then-dilapidated structure. Today, the block of Filbert Street astride the market is known as Harry Ochs Way.

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I believe that a landlord is required to follow city ordinances and the lease. As far as I am aware, there is no ordinance that says everyone pays the same rent per foot. I know residential landlords that do, on occasion work with tenants who are long term tenants (less rent) and/or are behind on the rent, and I have never heard of other tenants taking them to court for compassionate behavior.

Perhaps a lawyer will weigh in.

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There's no legal requirement to treat tenants the same if residential leases have the same regs as commercial ones

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