Toronto ice cream shop writes heartfelt goodbye letter after negotiations fail with landlord
The Lansdowne Cone is soon to be no more after the building where it sits was sold and attempts to negotiate with the new owners fell through.
Owner Denise Soueidan-O’Leary issued an open letter to Bloorland Holdings Ltd, the new owners of 659 Lansdowne Avenue, detailing the difficulties she's faced in trying to save her ice cream shop.
"We have been in negotiations for 6 weeks, and despite my best efforts to introduce you to the spirit of Bloordale, and the community value of The Lansdowne Cone, you continue to choose profit over people," the lettter begins.
"Because of this, the Lansdowne Cone is forced to leave Bloordale."
Dear Friends and Neighbours, 6 weeks ago, we announced that due to the sale of the building we had lost our lease, and that The Lansdowne Cone, your community ice cream shop, social enterprise, and community hub, was in jeopardy. We asked for your support to save The Lansdowne Cone. Since then you have really come through: nearly 6000 people have read our announcement, you have shared our GoFundMe over 1000 times; you have reached out and shared your stories, and told us how much this little place means to you. You have been in touch with the City Councillor, the MPP, and the MP, and each of them have been overwhelmed by how much you LOVE The Lansdowne Cone. We love you too. But unfortunately, we are being forced to leave Bloordale. At our most recent weekend pop up we got to see and scoop for almost 1000 of you! We didn’t know that it would be our final days in our Lansdowne home. But I have to say it was the absolute BEST way to say goodbye. We are SO deeply grateful for every share, every message, every letter to politicians, every penny and every ounce of love and support. We have known for a long time that we are pretty darn lucky to be part of the Bloordale Community. We are SO sad to be leaving Bloordale. As we told so many of you over the weekend, this is NOT the end - we will continue to run our social enterprise, we will continue to create employment opportunities, we will continue to serve great ice cream. The plan for now is to move into pop up spaces for the duration of the 2020 season, and to endeavour to find a way to return to a new, permanent home in Bloordale. Stay connected through Social media. We can’t wait to serve you at our new location(s) across the city! #thelansdownecone #lansdownecone #bloordale #ilovebloordale @discoverbloordale @junctiontriangleto
It then goes on to outline the efforts made to communicate and negotiate a possible arrangement that would see the shop remain in the space.
Back in April, the store appealed to the community for help in raising awareness about what was happening and the challenges it was facing with the new owners.
Since then, Soueidan-O’Leary says she's been trying to work collaboratively with them, but to no avail.
"Over the past 6 weeks we have engaged in a long process of negotiation - I have been open, honest and straightforward about our dedication to the Bloordale community," she wrote.
"You have refused to come to the table, and have forced me to work through an intermediary. You have been covert, slow to respond, and continue to display a complete lack of care for the community that you are now a part of."
The building at 1287 Bloor St. West was sold in April and includes the 659 Lansdowne Ave. address where the shop has its entrance.
Soueidan-O'Leary launched a fundraising campaign to help the store find a new space while negations were ongoing.
She also held a pop-up event in anticipation of officially reopening to the public this week.
Now it appears the shop will be closing for good after nine years at the corner of Lansdowne and Bloor.
Soueidan-O'Leary has also issued a political call to action on Monday to city councillor Ana Bailão, MPP Marit Stiles and MP Julie Dzerowicz to step in and address the "full latitude" landlords and developers are given to overpower small businesses.
"Though we are heart-broken to be leaving our home of 9 years," she wrote, "we will find another home, and we will continue to create inclusive space and accessible job opportunities for friends, for our community, and for our city."
We have been in negotiations for 6 weeks, and despite my best efforts to introduce you to the spirit of Bloordale, and the community value of The Lansdowne Cone, you continue to choose profit over people.
Because of this, the Lansdowne Cone is forced to leave Bloordale.
As you have already changed the locks, We request unrestricted access to the space for 1.5 weeks (until june 14th) to pack up and remove our fixtures and property from the location.
At the beginning of April we were notified that the building at 1287 Bloor Street had sold. We announced to our community that we were unsure of our future, and that we feared we would have to close.
On April 24, we were contacted by your agent assuring us that your group did not want us out, and would be interested in reaching an agreement to save The Lansdowne Cone, preserving it as a community resource.
Over the past 6 weeks we have engaged in a long process of negotiation - I have been open, honest and straightforward about our dedication to the Bloordale community, our commitment to our work providing employment opportunities for folks with disabilities and barriers, and our abilities and limitations as a social enterprise.
You have refused to come to the table, and have forced me to work through an intermediary. You have been covert, slow to respond, and continue to display a complete lack of care for the community that you are now a part of.
I have done my best to share with you the value of The Lansdowne Cone as a community resource here in the Bloordale community. I have shared with you the stories from our customers, and the outpouring of support we have received on social media since our announcement.
I have tried to show you that looking at us from a purely profit driven and financial return on investment perspective is a narrow view, and ignores the value of community assets in a vibrant community like Bloordale.
I was hopeful that the value of a community resource, and the strength of the community voice would lead you to make the right decision, but your ears are tuned only to the sound of profit
Throughout our negotiations, every time your agent came back to me, he came with another ask for me to sacrifice my stated needs - to pay more money, to accept stricter terms, to settle for a shorter lease term. And in the interest of preserving our home in Bloordale, and continuing our mission driven work, I conceded.
But I have been honest about the limitations of my business - though we are completely sustainable, The Lansdowne Cone is a mission driven business, not a profit driven business; we are simply unable to afford the exorbitant rent that you are asking for, nor are we able to remain in a space that will always be precarious, as you insist on including a termination clause so that you are able to chase capitalism over community.
In my very first letter to you, I welcomed you to Bloordale, and introduced you to the spirit of this community: “Your new acquisition sits at the heart of a lovely Toronto neighbourhood with an interesting and colourful history. It is home to many small businesses and to a vibrant group of people that tirelessly put in hard work to keep their community spirit alive...”
This is a community fighting to keep gentrification out, and to preserve the identity of Bloordale. Despite this introduction, and my efforts to show you the beauty of your new community, your intentions are clear. Your motives are unambiguous.
You are not interested in preserving the spirit of this community, you have no concern for the families and folks that live here, and you are bringing gentrification into our community.
It is National AccessAbility Week, and rather than problem solving and finding a way to get to yes, you are choosing to shut down a social enterprise that supports the disability community by holding inclusive space and creating accessible job opportunities.
Though we are heart-broken to be leaving our home of 9 years, we will find another home, and we will continue to create inclusive space and accessible job opportunities for friends, for our community, and for our city.
We live in a world where there is so much bad. So many are struggling. So much is wrong. The Lansdowne Cone is a ready made opportunity to preserve a little bit of hope, a little bit of beauty, a little bit of good. We weren’t asking you to do the work; that’s our job.
We were simply asking you to clear a path. I had hoped that community would win this time, but you have chosen: Capitalism over Community. Profit over Good. Money over People. This community deserves better.
Heartbroken, but not defeated.
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