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News Mon Sep 20 2010
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.
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.
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.