The Original Burrito Co. is packed with hungry customers, the All Family Barbershop is getting ready for the holiday rush, Regency Cleaners is filled with clothes and, yet, they may all have to close their doors.
The tenants of Ahwatukee Foothills’ oldest strip mall at 51st Street and Elliot Road may get shut down, despite signed leases. Leases are not being renewed and current tenants are being asked to accept termination agreements, according to Raisa Raskin, who owns a barbershop in the strip.
Seven months ago Raskin signed a five-year lease on her own barbershop. She spent over $15,000 on permits, cleaning and construction and now she may have to shut down and move. Raskin, who is from Russia, said that owning a business was her American dream.
“Everything was great until the rumors started. At first I couldn’t sleep nights, I just thought ‘What can I do now?’” she said, “I cannot build again.”
Raskin has been in negotiations with the landlords over an agreement regarding her lease. She said the first offer they gave her was insulting. It was only half of the first year’s price, which she paid up front.
“They could destroy my business, my dream, my last five years of work,” Raskin said, “I am close to retirement, I need time and they are not giving it to me.”
According to Raskin, the most important job she has is building up a clientele for the holiday season and if they make her leave there is no way she will have time to find a new location and get the clients she needs to survive.
“They take my freedom and right to decide when to move,” she said.
Raskin is not the only one who could see drastic customer decreases if there is a move.
“It’s expensive to relocate and sometimes companies just can’t handle it,” said Kate Wood, an avid Burrito Co. customer. “They have great food and prices, but a move would definitely hurt them.”
Kate Wood passes by several Mexican restaurants on her 10-minute drive to The Original Burrito Co. She used to work close by and would go there on her lunch break. Now she uses up part of her break just for the drive because she loves the food and “could not live without it.” She also frequents the shoe repair and dry cleaners next door. But Wood, along with the many other regulars, may have to change her eating and shopping habits.
Tenants are being left in the dark and do not know what to expect. The landlords are not returning calls so the majority of what they have is speculation. Luis Tolano, manager of Regency Cleaners, does not even know if he should make more business cards.
“I am almost out (of business cards), but I don’t know if I will even need more.” Tolano said, “I have talked to the owners and they tell me they don’t know.”
Two tenants have already left the strip after the landlords were unavailable when it came time to renew their leases, according to Raskin. Family Dental Care is about to follow their lead.
“They have not been the easiest landlords,” said April Garcia, the dental care receptionist. “We are probably just going to leave and move forward.”
The landlord company, Gilligan Commercial LLC, would not return phone calls from the AFN.
Brandi Bell is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.