Central Bench rallied for bakery, growler shop
The shelves at Granny C’s Bakery at the Hillcrest Shopping Center on the Boise Bench were bare by noon on Wednesday — despite the owners putting out triple the amount of pastries they normally sell.
The owners posted a sign on the door, letting customers know they were closed to “get caught up” and would reopen at 6 a.m. Thursday.
By about 10 a.m. Thursday, the community’s support was apparent yet again. The bakery was basically out of everything at that time, said pastry chef Heather deBoer, whose family owns Granny C’s. Heather told the Statesman on Thursday that the shop will stay open as long as there are products to sell — which, at the rate the customers are buying up the goodies, could mean just a few hours at a time.
Why the booming business? Boiseans have been showing their love for the family-run bakery — sued last week by Albertsons for allegedly violating a noncompete clause — by doing more than just eating everything in sight, including the signature old-school cinnamon rolls, called Granny Rolls.
Brad deBoer, a real estate agent who owns the bakery with his wife and Heather, is grateful for the community support. But he is despondent because he believes his family is going to lose it all, despite the contract he signed with the shopping center.
“I’m done,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. “We can’t start over.”
The Central Bench Neighborhood Association sent a letter to Albertsons Corporation, asking the grocery giant not to “resort to legal bullying tactics” to push out the bakery and nearby CopenRoss Growlers. A gathering at CopenRoss to support both businesses is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, according to a public event scheduled on Facebook; 61 people indicated they are going and 97 said they’re interested.
“Especially in a shopping center that already has a high turnover rate,” the letter says. “Our Center Bench Neighborhood has worked hard to encourage small businesses to come set up shop.”
Albertsons, also a tenant at the shopping center though not in the same building, sued Granny C’s, CopenRoss Growlers and California-based shopping center owner FPA Shoppes at Hillcrest, the Statesman reported Wednesday. But the company announced Thursday that it was dropping Granny C’s and CopenRoss from the suit; FPA Shoppes is still named.
In its original suit, Albertsons said the two businesses are violating a noncompete clause in the lease that the grocery giant signed with former shopping center owner Hillcrest Plaza Partnership in 1987.
It’s unclear why FPA Shoppes at Hillcrest would sign leases with businesses that might violate the contract with Albertsons. Michael B. Earl, the manager of the company, did not return calls for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.
Lisa Copenspire-Ross, owner of CopenRoss Growlers, told the Statesman via email Tuesday that she did not want to comment on the lawsuit, other than to say that CopenRoss does not think it has violated any lease agreement.
The president of the Central Bench Neighborhood Association told the Statesman at an interview outside the bakery Wednesday that both businesses offer needed meeting spaces for that group and others.
“They’re local hangout spots,” Randy Johnson said. “We want to, as a neighborhood, to support our local businesses.”
He noted that Albertsons has been a great corporate friend to the area, providing $100 in gift certificates and 300 bottles of water for the group’s National Night Out event Tuesday. The association’s concern is that the corporate giant is chasing out “mom-and-pop” businesses.
“What’s next? Albertsons sells flowers, is your next move to chase out Hillcrest Floral,” Johnson wrote in the association letter to Albertsons. “You sell Starbucks Coffee, will you chase out any place that offers local coffee?”
The Central Bench Neighborhood Association represents thousands of residents who live in about 2,500 homes, in an area that’s between Roosevelt Street and Curtis Road, and Alpine Street and Overland Road.
DeBoer said his family spent thousands renovating the 1,600-square-foot space previously occupied by a Blimpie shop, and they don’t have the money to relocate the $13,000 in baking equipment they installed. He borrowed money from a friend to get the business off the ground.
DeBoer’s daughter, Heather, trained at a culinary school in Portland. The family opened the doors of the bakery in April, just days after her 30th birthday.
Things were going pretty well — despite trouble getting the shopping center to approve a sign outside the business, an issue they now realize was related to the Albertsons dispute.
The deBoers were about to begin promoting the use of a back room that seats up to 15 people for parties and conferences. “And then all this happened,” Heather deBoer said. “It’s really disheartening for us.”
Albertsons spokeswoman Chris Wilcox told the Statesman via email Wednesday that the company was reviewing the letter from the Central Bench Neighborhood Association, and she provided a written statement:
“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. 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 ... 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.”