Dispute Over IGA’s Future

Posted on 12 August 2011

By Bryan Boyhan

One of the oldest businesses on Sag Harbor’s Main Street is the subject of a bitter family dispute that may result in it being forced out.

The owners of Schiavoni’s IGA Market, Michael and Jennifer Schiavoni, have received notice from the building’s owner that if they do not agree to a substantial rent increase, they will be asked to vacate the premises. The building’s owners are Michael’s mother, Victoria Schiavoni and his aunt, Doris Schiavoni.

“We don’t want to leave,” said Michael Schiavoni in an interview this week. “We can’t afford to pay the increase and I’m at my wits end.”

Currently, Michael and Jennifer say they pay about $10,800 a month to the building’s owners, Schiavoni Family, LLC, for a total of about $129,600 a year. A letter from Doris and Victoria’s lawyer, Kathryn Dalli, states the future rent per month will be $17,068, or about $204,816, a more than $75,000 increase per year.

Victoria Schiavoni declined to comment on the negotiations, saying she felt it was a family matter, but said she was hopeful the two sides would be able to resolve their differences.

But while Victoria remained quiet, Michael said he hoped to garner community support. This week tensions had run so high, he had intended to put up petitions at the cash registers in the market. Ultimately, however, he said he would wait to see if his brother, Andrew, could help negotiations.

The building and the business had been owned by brothers John Schiavoni — Doris’ late husband — and Joseph Schiavoni — Victoria’s late husband and Michael’s father. But John sold his share of the business to Joseph in the 1980s, and ultimately the business went to Michael.

The building, upon the death of both John and Joseph in the past few years, went to their widows.

For much of that time, the lease to operate the market in the building was negotiated and handled informally among family members.

“It was about a paragraph long,” said Doris Schiavoni. “It was a joke.”

At issue in particular is a calculation of the actual usable square footage in the building. A recent survey conducted for Schiavoni Family, LLC, indicates there is about 7,600 square feet of retail space, according to Michael. He and his wife maintain there is only about 5,500 square feet of usable retail space, and cite a survey completed at the time of Joseph’s death as corroboration.

“We got our surveyor and we walked the building,” said Doris Schiavoni. “It is what it is. I have plans, diagrams. I’ve been working on this for more than eight months.”

When calculated, the rent requested by Schiavoni Family, LLC amounts to a little over $26 square foot annually. Doris said she believed she could charge as much as $35 or $40 a square foot.

While the couple would be prepared to pay similar to the $26 square foot rate, according to Jennifer Schiavoni, they feel the difference in interpreting the actual usable area makes the cost prohibitive.

“Going into the summer, our sales were off by about 12 percent,” said Jennifer. “Now they’re down almost 18 percent from this time last year.”

A letter from Schiavoni Family LLC attorney to Michael and Jennifer’s attorney, Marcia Hefter, notes that Michael and Jennifer have been operating the market without a signed lease since July of 2010.

“…my client has reached its breaking point,” the letter reads. “Both members of the Schiavoni Family, LLC have instructed me to advise you that if your client does not accept the following modified lease terms, unfortunately he must vacate the premises.”

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29 Responses to “Dispute Over IGA’s Future”

  1. Local1953 says:

    The operator of Schiavoni’s supermarket should look into buying the building, if the owners are willing to sell. $17,068. a month would pay for a large mortgage, and he would have a good long term investment. Good meat department by the way.

  2. Lucy LI says:

    I’ve always supported this store even though their prices are inflated.It would be great to see a Whole Foods move in that could supply healthy organic food.Schiavoni’s prices are close to what a premium quality food store like that sells without the quality brands.If they can hammer out a lease and meet the evil aunt halfway then I fear that no one will shop there as they will have to raise their prices even more.They are already on the brink of pricing themselves out of the market and the 5 dollars in gas round trip to get to King Kullen is negligible in comparison to the money saved on $100.00 of groceries compared to what that buys now at Schiavoni’s.It’s sad that this is also a family owned business passed down from generation to generation that is at the mercy of a surviving spouse who married into the family. But, as they say in the Sopranos, “It’s Just Business”.Don’t take it personally.I’m sure Doris would rent it out to anyone that met her price regardless of the impact to the community and Main St.How about another mediocre restaurant from the jeff and eddie people? Or another 7/11? Or Doris could just let it lay fallow unrented for a few years like all those stores in East Hampton a few years ago until she gets her square foot price.

  3. Live near says:

    There are certain high end food retailers who wouldn’t think twice of paying $204,000. in rent annually at that location. These retailers I speak about, pull in more than $200,000. on a weekend Saturday alone, and I think you know who I am talking about.

    As far as business being off 18 percent from last year, I use to shop there 4 or 5 times a week until 3 or 4 years ago. Now I might stop in once or twice a year. Why? As the reader mentioned above, they are on the brink of pricing themselves out of business. I shop at King Kullen or Stop and Shop because these tough economic times dictate that.

  4. Local also says:

    I would hardly call Doris Schiavoni the evil aunt. Business is business. I hardly shop there anymore…its to expensive. Potato salad is $3.99 a half pound. That is $7.98 a lb. for potatoes that you can get for 49 cents a lb. in King Kullen. In the winter the place is dead, the locals can’t afford those prices!

    I remember when Schiavoni’s was a nice little Mom & Pop store on Main St. One of the owners was always walking around with a smile and a greeting…and a THANK YOU! Times have changed.

  5. SagHarborBob says:

    I truly hope the family sorts it out and an agreeable rent is found. Angelo, the Joe and John, were part of the backbone of this community. Michael has done a great job to bring the product mix to a higher level. Yes, it’s expensive to shop there, but King Kullen is no bargain either.
    I don’t understand how Victoria and Doris potentially intend to shut down
    the grocery business built by the husbands, and run by the son (and nephew).
    I agree with LucyLI that the prices charged at Schiavoni’s are at a maximum level now. To increase them further will kill their golden goose.

  6. Ruledbyfools says:

    If the IGA leaves the store will remain vacant for years. You know it will take a long drawn out approval process to make any change and also save sag harbor will come out in force against any store that may be able to risk the rent. There is little parking during peak season, a problem for all business owners on main st and that’s a big hurt. Don’t get too greedy Doris it may not go your way.

  7. love sag says:

    How sad that a mother and aunt would see their son and nephew put out of business because they wants more money……we’re not talking about just any landlords, this is family. Wow. Greed rules the world doesn’t it? Very discouraging.
    The store has been there for years and years but suddenly the mother and aunt want a backbreaking raise in rent; from 10,000. a month to 17,0000??!

    Doris said she believed she could charge as much as $35 or $40 a square foot. Hope you sleep well at night ladies and that the money is worth losing your family over.

  8. Local also says:

    Angelo, John & Joe ran that business like a local Mom & Pop store. Since then, it has changed considerably. It is no longer like it used to be. I get the feeling its trying to compete with Citarella’s.

    Doris has her own vested interest in the place. She is not just the evil aunt that married into the family. She has 3 Schiavoni kids of her own to pass this down to. So why shouldn’t she think of business? Sounds like there is family strife there…and who cares? Business is business!

    They need to iron this out as business partners…without all the drama of the press.

  9. Janice says:

    I agree that the prices are WAY TOO HIGH!! The Milk is always spoiled and you cannot get a sandwich the way you ask for it.. It is mostly prepared they way the deli clerk feels like it should be.. I agree with points of everyone. A Whole Foods would be amazing there and you would probably see a savings. King Kullen is not priced the same, there is a significant difference. I can only afford to pick up a few emergency items now as opposed to filling up my carr. WHOLE FOODS! Business is business and maybe this will force them into listening to the public.

  10. Jan says:

    OH NO!!!! The one and nearly ONLY family I’ve ever believed in… The SCHIAVONIS!!! Besides St.Andrews, the 5 and 10, and the hardware store, Schiavoni’s was our source for food, jokes and friendship, ever since I’ve known them from 1973. Their prices were always a little high, but Joe and John were always there to make light of whatever was happening in the world. Michael and Andrew and all the kids seemed like good, upstanding, hardworking kids. Doris and Vikki are wonderful people, too. But what happened??? How could it all come to this? I am heartily sorry for another great family to go down the tubes, if they continue on this path. The rent in Sag Harbor is ridiculous anyway. To keep “upping the ante” will only cause irreparable harm to the town. Whole Foods??? King Kullen??? Those are just awful alternatives. I hope they can come to an agreement. Not because of my dearest memories, but because of what it it’s closing would do to this town.

  11. Richard says:

    Lets hope they can work it out because the service of having a reasonable locally owned business that stays put is a bird in the hand…

  12. Tim says:

    The convenience of being in town is worth the price and not everything seems that high, not that I am much of a comparison shopper. Maybe it is the pre-packaged and junk food items that are too high ? I like the bakery, produce and meat departments. But Janice is right about the milk spoiling too quickly – I always pick milk up somewhere else.
    I hope the family can work it out. It is really an important part of the community.

  13. long live the mom and pops! says:

    Business is business, but family is family and in a tough economy and town with rents that keep inflating beyond means, it seems sad that family would not support each other to continue business operations. I agree the prices are high, but I’m sure that goes with the convenience of a main street grocery. We love the soups!! If it comes down to it I sure hope Whole Foods does not go in. They’re prices are high, too! How about a Trader Joes?!!! Might give Provisions some competition! Good luck to the Schiavonis and hope they can work it out. The “mom and pop” stores are what helps make Sag Harbor a special town.

  14. WandaBmayor says:

    The few family businesses that have survived here in Sag Harbor and in so many towns across the country are those that owned the building they were doing business in.The surviving spouses that own the building should sell the building to their respective offspring who are running the store and hold the note to eliminate the need for a down payment. If the kids can get it together and turn the business around in 2 years time then they should not have a problem getting a bank to give them a mortgage to eliminate the previous generations stranglehold on the business.The surviving spouses will have enough money to invest which will garner more in interest annually than they are presently getting in rent on that building.It’s a win/win situation and they will still have a substantial trust to leave to their heirs minus the baggage of the heirs fighting over a building and what to do with it after they have died.I hope that Victoria and Doris have counsel that can suggest a reputable money manager that could meet with them and guide then through the process and what to expect.If the sons and daughters presently running the business
    really want to make it work then they will find a way to do it.I think the time for positive action on all sides has come and all should put their cards on the table and doing something positive for both themselves and their community.

  15. E.M. Maxx says:

    One word…………GREED……………

  16. JoseB says:

    I’m not totally convinced that greed is the motivating factor in this situation.I think fear is the more likely candidate.As we grow older and watch our old friends die and we become increasingly more fearful of what will become of us and how will we be able to take care of ourselves once our spouse is gone can create a negative emotional environment that will confuse and distract from rational thought.What this family needs is what every family needs-Good estate planning.There is a simple reason why most people born into wealth tend to keep it for further generations.They are taught at an early age the value of a dollar and how to respect it along with all who are beneficiaries
    of their shared trust.Knowledge is a powerful tool. I can only hope their is someone within reach they can trust to enlighten them.

  17. Pwilson says:

    It is a shame that Michael felt compelled to bring a family business negotiation into the editorial pages of the local paper. He is dragging the family name thru the mud. Doris was blindsided by the phone call from the express and had no intentions of discussing this outside the family.

    It is unfortunate that Doris and Vicki have been left to deal with this situation as best they can. These negotiations with Michael have been going on for several years, unfortunately John and Joe were not successful in settling with Michael either.

    To read comments like Evil attributed to Doris is hurtful and unwarranted and she is due an apology. Particularly from people who may not know her and certainly do not know all the facts.

  18. A- hole bunch of noise says:

    It’s funny when I read this article I did not come away thinking the “Evil Aunt”. That sounds like a low blow from a scorn party involved. We should remember that all details are not always published. I wish the family well.

  19. Jamie W says:

    I certainly got a different impression from reading the article.I too was thinking this was a good cop/bad cop situation and that the “evil aunt” reference by one of the commentators was metaphorical rather than accusatory.None of what any of us think, whether we know these family members or not, makes any difference in the long run and what will be the end result of this situation.Change is good-whether its family based or community based.My idea of a win/win situation regarding this matter would be for the family members to get out of the business entirely, sell the building and hopefully we could get get some new blood in that location that can provide better value and be open longer year round to maybe put pressure on the 7/11 and take away their market share and hopefully put them out of business.Now that would be a productive outcome for this community.

  20. Lauren B says:

    Jamie W-on board for that! I love to shop in the late evening hours but don’t like to drive to Bridgehampton to do so.And I think the area around the 7/11 is one of the nicer spots in our town and it would be great to see something done to get that junk food store out of there and develop that space and surrounding landscape into something that everyone in our town would appreciate.Where’s the save Sag Harbor folks when you need them? I’d be happy to volunteer my time to get some fundemental positive change moving along.We have a beautiful town that could use some updating to the basic services but not in the traditional way of fast food junk stores that do nothing for our children’s nutritional needs or the residents of our town for that matter..Maybe the problem is that too many of our leaders shop there and have a low self esteem as a result of that experience. Who knows?

  21. Lance Sokoloff says:

    Well……we all want to have choices when we are spending our hard earned money.As altruistic Lauren may think she is in suggesting that the absence of a 7/11 would be a positive step in moving our community along I would beg to differ. Even if we could start our children to a path of good nutrition in their formative years you still have to deal with the school system lunch programs and television advertising of useless food items that dominate our culture and are available at places like 7/11 and yes Schiavoni’s. If you spend a few minutes in the parking lot of the 7/11 you will see how pervasive the consumption of high carb high fructose high fat food is in this society.After pharmaceutical and oil companies the food industry is the next biggest lobbying group in Washington.Even to the extent they convinced congress years ago to let them get into the energy business by mandating ethanol made from corn be put into our gasoline.Ironically this does almost the same thing to our gasoline as the junk food does to our bodies.Most processed food we consume is high in the fructose that comes from corn.Have you ever heard of ethanol increasing gas mileage or engine life?No.It actually is a much less efficient fuel and is much more toxic to the components in the fuel delivery sytem.At least it is democratic in that it does not discriminate between human or mechanical destruction when being consumed and pretty much delivers the same results wherever applied.

  22. Clean up on aisle 5 says:

    In reference to the article, it seems the current owner is disputing the square footage. How could this be possible? An almost 2000 sq. foot discrepancy seems like a lot. So , are we to understand the owner has 2000 square feet of unusable space? When was the last time he was actually in the store?? Anyone who shops at Schiavonis must be thinking where is this unusable space. This sounds like a stall tactic…and smells like sour milk.

  23. jeremee paddlefoot says:

    It’s funny because I was in the store yesterday and decided to walk off the square footage because it never seemed to be that big of a space to be 7500 or so square feet in all the years I’ve shopped there.I have a pretty accurate 3 foot step so off I went up over down and around and came up with a figure closer to the 5500 sq ft mark.However there is storage on the ground floor which could be another 500 sq ft and maybe there is a cellar of some substantial size? Maybe the C of O for the building considers the entirety of the square footage of the building to be retail even though only 3/4 of it is being utilized for that purpose.I know that when I had a business in new york city and was renting a fairly large 10,000 sq ft space there was a catch as to what the actual square footage of my space was as measured by rule and what the landlord deemed as “usable square footage” and the other gotcha way of diminishing actual square footage with the term “common space”.I also had a lease that was about 75 pages long and included clauses from almost of every commercial lease written since the beginning of time.The article has Doris saying the present lease is 1 paragraph long and is a joke.I must concur with her that any 1 paragraph lease is a joke if you are a landlord and a pretty good deal if you are the tenant.I think a handshake deal and someones word would be a more defendable contract in court than a 1 paragraph lease. So as others have stated earlier in these comments I would suggest that these 2 owners of the building find themselves a good attorney that can honestly educate them about how to handle their affairs.That’s the best thing that could happen to their children and grandchildren in the long run because if the sons and daughters can take advantage of them due to poor business practices then a total stranger who wants to rent that space is going to really give them a bigger headache and put them at more risk than this present situation has.

  24. franco says:

    I’d say Angelo should be turning over in his grave right about now.

  25. steve says:

    Doris is insane, she is charging for space thats not even usable. please understand that her husband was bought out of the business far and square. To raise it this much is pure greed or jealouseness

  26. Lucille says:

    Yes, Angelo would be turning over in his grave. He always put family first.

    I just wonder why they have to hire illegal people. Fact!

  27. Local also says:

    Those are harsh words, Steve!

  28. local supporter says:

    Sag Harbor really, really needs a grocery store downtown.
    Think: meeting friends and neighbors and catching up on the news.
    Think: being older, or sick, or otherwise unable to drive.
    Think: snow and storms and summer traffic. Who really wants to be on the road?
    But it sounds as though Schiavoni’s have needed to raise their prices to pay their rent and is so doing has lost even more local support, as families drive to King Kullen or further west.
    Would it be possible for Schiavoni’s to do something like Provisions does? Sell a discount card in January that shoppers can use all year? In return for this they would get many, many committed customers who would shop there year-round to recoup the cost of their card–and support the store, where they now can’t afford to. Community Supported Grocery Store anyone?

  29. Name says:

    I believe that this article was used as a forum for Michael to cry to the public about his multiple grocery businesses and how he cannot “afford” to pay rent to his own mother. Sounds like an irresponsible child. I will CRY Propaganda! As is all of the slander in which ignorant readers have thrown at this family. A disrespect to his own family who has supported him throughout his business adventures. A family in which has shown Valor and Respect to the town of Sag Harbor. Where is the respect for his own father? Antagonists can be seen through the eyes of some onlookers, but it is the terrorist that can be seen by the eyes of the educated. In tough times family should stick together, not fold in the arms of economy. At least that is what a strong family does.

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