Gillian Clark Details Reasons for General Store Shuttering
It's with heavy hearts we're announcing that The General Store is closed. For the entire 4+ years we've been involved with this building we have been bullied by the landlords. The landlord has not paid his back taxes and the county is taking back the building. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for being more than just customers. We consider all of you friends.
Young & Hungry reached out to Clark for more details, and she sent us the following statement:
In 2006 we fell in love with this little blue building in Forest Glen. We knew we were working with landlords that were themselves in the business, so we were confident that they understood what could happen in this little place with us as the management team. Still, they offered to have their chef at Mrs. K’s teach me how to make fried chicken.
Looking at the mess it was inside did not deter us and we were determined to make a restaurant out of it. We were about two years into the renovation—the whole floor needed to be ripped up, although he dug out the basement (without permits) the landlord poured it two inches too short, PEPCO determined the power to be insufficient, and we later learned there was not enough parking to make it a restaurant anyway. Through all of this the landlord sued us. We spent tens of thousands in legal fees, and hundreds of thousands to avoid bankruptcy and finish this project. We knew that it would be great once it opened.
And it was—three times on the Food Network and over a million in sales in 26 short months with less than 40 seats. The landlord with two restaurants of his own nearby, could barely pay his bills and could not keep up with the payments to the lenders or his property taxes. The notice from the county about the back taxes was stapled to our door one morning. And shortly after that, the process server came to insist that we come in to landlord/tenant court to face charges that we were behind in our rent.
Considering our difficulty opening, and debt load associated with it; we made arrangements to pay a weekly rent that has been in effect for over a year. We were paying as agreed (the landlord even giving us a thumbs up to a creditor just weeks ago). He suddenly declared us in default and he wanted us to pay him an unfounded and ridiculous amount of money and he wanted it now. We fear he’s just not able to pay the debt and tax bills associated with the place and suing us and gaining possession of the property will make a much neater end for him. Nonetheless, he presented false documents in court and perjured himself to get the judge to see his side.
I am attaching before and after pictures so you can see what it is we did to this place and if he is able to run this restaurant after he takes possession of it (if you can’t make a restaurant of your own successful why not steal one) it will be because of our hard work and vision.
We are grateful and proud of having the opportunity to be The General Store and to serve this community as best as we were able. We took this eyesore of a building and made it something great.
So many others drove by it and crossed it off of their list (other chefs, architects, business people). We were undaunted and stubborn. At times we came close to giving up and sometimes I think maybe we should have turned away. But I’m proud of what we did here. We were plumb out of money but there was a knife to our backs to finish and open—attorneys, landlord, judges were folding their arms and tapping their feet. We tiled the floors, we painted, we got that walk-in together—8 feet tall walk in cooler in a 7 foot 11 inch high space. But it has been too much bullying from the landlord and we are just too old to keep fighting. I’m sure you noticed that Robin and I are IT. We are here 16 hours a day. We’ll get some rest now and concentrate on our other projects.
I hope the New General Store or whatever takes its place when the landlord gets someone else to lease the space, I hope it thrives for the sake of this community that has always been so generous and supportive.
Photo of Gillian Clark at her former restaurant, Colorado Kitchen, by Darrow Montgomery