The Tomato, the pizza restaurant long considered an iconic part of the eclectic Fry Street area, will be closing its doors soon.And when we had last checked in on the subject, the Tomato owners' son had posted a bulletin on the store's MySpace page saying that the store would likely be there until the end of the semester. Previous articles had also noted that the owners were negotiating with the developer of the future Fry Street Village to relocate within that development. So what happened?
Last week, owner Mike "Ski" Slusarski received word that he would need to be out of the building at the corner of Hickory and Fry streets by March 15.
The deadline followed the end of ongoing discussions between Slusarski and United Equities Inc. about the restaurant's move into the proposed Fry Street Village.
The Tomato was one of a number of businesses on the property to receive official eviction notices from the Houston-area developer in early January. The notices cited Jan. 31 as the final day, but an official with the development company indicated the firm would work with the businesses individually.
Slusarski said initial conversations with the developer about relocating to the new development did not include downtime — time that his business would be closed. However, recent talks included the possibility of seven months between the time his current location would not be available and the proposed location at the proposed Fry Street Village would be ready.No kidding. That's a bit too much to ask.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “I can’t be out of business for seven months.”
Another local Fry Street activist says that this behavior is par for the course with this developer:
“It is typical of UE’s [United Equities] strong-arm business tactics and not the first time they’ve used them in Denton,” wrote in e-mail Mike Cochran, former City Council member and Denton historian who has been working with Save Fry Street, an organization formed after the property sale to save historic portions of the retail area.Read the whole thing. In the meantime, Slusarski is looking for another location (which he has to find in a little more than three weeks), and at this point, it's not likely to be within walking distance of campus, because there's simply nothing available. But count me in as one UNT alum who 1) will support the Tomato no matter where they go, and 2) has little desire to support any business in Fry Street Village, no matter how cool it might end up being. It's not always just about the almighty dollar; sometimes it has to do with keeping the character of a neighborhood intact, especially in a college town. United Equities doesn't seem to have learned that lesson yet.
“They offer small business rent at exorbitant prices and when they balk, throw them out on the street with almost no notice. This is just pure punitive action to force a small businessman out of business because he wouldn’t ‘play ball’ with them,” Cochran wrote.
UPDATE: More thoughts on the subject at the Save Fry Street site.