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News Mon Sep 20 2010

Food Fight at Milwaukee & Logan

I think we can all agree that croissants are awesome. What two Logan Square businesses cannot agree about is who can sell just one.

Last week, the Chicago Reader covered the news that newly-opened La Boulangerie cannot sell a single croissant, yet can sell them by the dozen. Turns out, owner Vincent Colombet signed a lease with a non-compete clause that prevents his business from selling goods that would overlap with neighboring New Wave Coffee: coffee, tea, sandwiches, baked goods, etc. This is a fairly standard business practice, especially when you consider La Boulangerie and New Wave are in the same building.

logan mwke.JPG

People in the rapidly-gentrifying area are up in skinny arms about this, bitching to anyone who will listen in the comments on the Reader story, on Yelp, and of course on the ever colorful Logan Square Yahoo! mailing list. Well, today New Wave owner Zach Zulauf responded on the mailing list. After the jump, the text of the letter:

To my friends and neighbors in Logan Square and any other concerned parties,

I wanted to set the record straight regarding this kerfuffle about croissants, New Wave Coffee & La Boulangerie. When New Wave signed our lease on the space, we put in a pretty standard clause that said that the landlord couldn't rent to other businesses that sold coffee, tea, sandwiches, baked goods, etc. It's nothing unusual, and it only covers from our space to the corner.

Vincent really wanted to rent that corner space, and he came begging us to allow him a special permission to rent that space, even though he'd be selling crepes and baguettes. Our landlord thought Vincent would be a good tenant, and we thought the two businesses could be complimentary. So we sat down and spent a lot of time and effort trying to find a way to allow La Boulangerie to rent that space.

We didn't have to allow the business in. And Vincent didn't have accept our agreement. And he was always welcome to rent the many other store fronts around that we don't have any say over. But Vincent really wanted that location.

Vincent decided that he was perfectly fine not selling coffee, tea, or individual croissants or pastries. And he decided that it was a worthwhile trade off to get that space. So we rewrote some of our lease language to allow him in to the building.

To be clear: La Boulangerie would never have that space if we hadn't worked hard to create an exception to allow them into the building.

Now for Vincent to go crying about the situation is disingenuous. He made an agreement not to sell certain things. He said he was happy with the arrangement. He was thrilled to get the space he wanted. Now if he wants to paint New Wave or myself as the bad guy in this situation, especially after we've gone way out of our way to accommodate him, then he's a man of no honor.

No lawyers, with or without capes, are going to change the agreement that Vincent made with us. If Vincent can't make his business model work within the confines of our agreement, he has no one to blame but himself. This is a problem Vincent decided to create for himself. And for him to go whining to the press and the neighborhood is immature and shows the real problems behind La Boulangerie.

Sincerely,

Zach Zulauf
Owner
New Wave Coffee

It's unclear how much Colombet was actually complaining to begin with, or if the Reader's Sula was just chatting him up, found out some juicy info, and ran with it.

Either way, business is booming in Logan Square these days, and if a resolution with the lease can't be reached, there are no less than seven empty storefronts on the next block up Milwaukee.

 

Annie / September 21, 2010 3:34 PM

If you go into La Boulangerie, the employees are more than happy to go into detail about the no compete clause. They're pretty quick to paint New Wave as bad guys, without addressing the fact that they did indeed sign the lease. It's nice to hear the other side of the story. I'm not sure croissants are worth fighting over.

To Kiss the Cook / September 22, 2010 5:29 PM

Damn. For the record, I had a cup of coffee at New Wave on Sunday and a chocolate croissant from La Boulangerie the same day (sold at their market booth NOT the bakery). I hate that Vincent (from LB) might be a dick. Because I loved that piece of pastry. It's a great spot but it's not worth a French boulangerie not selling what the French do best and I agree that it was foolish to share a building with a longstanding neighborhood favorite.

EMG / September 24, 2010 5:39 PM

Ok, so it's nice to hear from Zach & get his side of things, but I certainly wouldn't call Vincent a dick, and I don't even think disingenuous. Granted he's a horrible negotiator and possibly not so bright, but that's about it. I do have to say I've been to La Boulangerie a few times & they did recommend New Wave coffee to EVERYONE that came in the first couple times I was in there. I was pretty put off that they didn't offer any coffee and couldn't sell me one croissant & I asked them about it. They did offer that they agreed not with New Wave to sell coffee, but they weren't whining about it.
I left thinking wow what an idiot for agreeing to that & how stingy of New Wave. Seeing above that they "sat down to hash things out" and Zach still kept such amazingly broad stipulations on what they couldn't sell just reinforces my original opinion. REALLY, a french bakery can't sell individual pastries? It's such a minute part of New Waves business it's just petty to not let La Bolangerie sell them. Sorry Zach, but your arguement that you worked hard to let them in doesn't really hold water when you see the result of the negotiation. The non-compete agreement is in place to protect you granted, but they usually aren't so broad in scope... I think La Boulangerie's presence there, no matter what they sell, only helps you. The result of what you've done by being so petty about the agreement ultimately looses you business.

Jenny and Shirley / October 1, 2010 2:39 PM

Free coffee and croissants at Wolfbait!

chris / October 13, 2010 5:11 PM

"The non-compete agreement is in place to protect you granted, but they usually aren't so broad in scope"

Seriously? Not so broad? Have you read many strip center or major mall non-competes, especially for the benefit of national retailers? Many of them are much, much broader--like a Radio Shack having an exclusive on *all* electronics, meaning no video games, tvs, cell phones, cameras, anything--so a Walgreens or a Toys R Us would have to modify their product lines or get Radio Shack's permission.

Sean / November 3, 2010 10:24 AM

Why doesn't Vincent offer to give a cut of his croissant business to New Wave? Though I'd like to say that New Wave's food is categorically bad. To think that LB's clientele--meaning non-skinny-pant-wearing misanthropes--are going to hang out at New Wave and deal with their too-cool-for-school attitude is absurd. I used to buy a tea there to use the internet. Now I go to Starbucks. Less attitude if you can believe it. Last thing: Zach, you sure sounds nervous in your letter. I smell shame.

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