Evicted mall tenants feel betrayed
Tenants of the aging Round Hill Mall feel betrayed by new owners who promised to accommodate them through the demolition and rebuilding process but, on Wednesday, delivered eviction notices instead.
“All of us had been reassured we had at least a year,” said Toni DePaoli, a Prudential agent with an office next to the U.S. Post Office where she has been since 1993. “We would have been looking months ago (for spaces).”
DePaoli has never met the owners of Round Hill Ventures who purchased the rundown mall about a year ago.
“We decided to stay here because they would relocate us in the mall to keep our businesses open,” DePaoli said. “This is our livelihood.”
Bland Coleman, owner of Seven Arrows jewelry and Indian crafts store, had just talked on Friday to mall co-owner Doug Rostello.
“He told me there was nothing to worry about. Everything was on hold for now,” said Coleman, a 25-year tenant who has hundreds of fragile pieces to pack up and move. “He’s wiping out lives, is what he’s doing.”
Many business owners have already moved out rather than face the repeated moves that would be required during the building process.
But, based on reassurances from Round Hill Ventures, many other business owners decided to stick out the inconvenience of the demolition and construction for the chance to move into a brand new building.
They also made substantial investments in advertising and merchandise.
Before a recent weeklong buying trip to Las Vegas, Berit Koskin, owner of Scandia Goodies Plus, asked the mall owners what to expect. Now she has to move extra storage rooms of merchandise and cancel the orders that have not arrived.
“They could have told us they didn’t have room and that would have been OK,” Koskin said. “I can not find a place and move in 30 days.”
Not all the tenants have been evicted. Other business owners have been told they can move into spaces not scheduled for immediate demolition.
Some have not heard a thing.
“I don’t know what they plan to do with me, they won’t talk to me,” said Larry Pedigo, owner of Multimedia Center, adding that he has tried several times to schedule a face-to-face meeting, even holding his rent check for owners to pick up.
Others canceled payment on rent checks sent upon request last week.
The lack of communication has been a chief complaint for the tenants. DePaoli has received most of her information, including delivery of the eviction notice, from the mall custodian.
“Not one person has come to my office,” she said.
“Nobody’s ever talked to be. Nobody,” said Paul Maser, owner of Paul’s Hobby, a five-year tenant. “It wouldn’t be good for people to rent a spot here with people who act like this.”
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Update 9:15 a.m. — Power has been restored to about 3,700 customers, according to the Liberty Utilities outage map.