An epic tenant-landlord battle erupted last week in the heart of inner Southeast, finally ending five years of tension behind the scenes at the popular, bright yellow coffeeshop Floyd's. But not before involving a midnight stake out, the police and, yes, a weeks-long secret exodus. It's a crazy story no matter which side tells it.
It all started five years ago when Jack Inglis and his wife Cris Chapman opened Floyd's coffee shop in the tiny drive thru cafe space in King Harvest Natural Foods on SE 15th and Morrison. The owner of King Harvest, Howard Durand, become Floyd's next-door neighbor and landlord. At the beginning of their tenure, the two small business owners signed what everyone agreed was a flimsy lease - just a piece of paper that said they would work out some of the big details, like utilities, after six months. Well, six months rolled around and business was booming at Floyd's. Durand tried to start charging for utilities and that's when Inglis says "the nastiest border war in the closest proximity" began.
The whole damn story below the cut.
Durand did not want to go through the trouble of getting utilities metered at the building, so he says he estimated Floyd's usage and sent them a fair bill. Inglis and Chapman say Durand handed them a scrap of paper with an outrageous sum written on it — more than $7000, which amounted to half the cost of utilities for the block-sized building in which they took up only 500 square feet of space. They refused to pay. Durand refused to negotiate. Communication between the neighbors crumbled into letters from lawyers, emails and envelopes slipped under their shared door. As Floyd's continued refusing to pay the steep utility price, Durand started taking away some of their shared items. First the ice machine disappeared behind a locked gate. Then the dishwasher. "He's got zero ethics," says Inglis. "I still feel like they owe me money," says Durand.
As the end of the five year lease approached (it was set to expire this May 1st, at midnight) the owners of Floyd's became convinced that Durand was going to try to take over their thriving coffee shop and use their equipment to start his own cafe in the same place. Secretly, Inglis found a new storefront just half a block away. In the weeks leading up to May 1st, the Floyd's staff began renovating the new space and discreetly moved supplies from old Floyds to the new Floyds under 50 yards away.
On the last night of the lease, April 30th, Inglis decided to camp out in the cafe, sleeping with one eye open on a small cot. "I knew he was going to attempt something!" says Inglis, "I've been battling this guy for four years!" Sure enough, at 12:06 AM, Durand pulled up with a crew full of workers.
"It was the most beautiful moment. I stepped up and said, 'I'm here to assert my right as a tenant!'" says Inglis, who then whipped out his lease and read aloud the line saying he had the shop for 24 more hours. Both men agree that "heated words" were exchanged and Inglis wound up calling the police, who arrived and told Durand he and his crew should probably just leave. Durand says the whole thing was a misunderstanding. He thought the lease expired on midnight of April 30th and his work crew could only work that night. Durand says the idea that he was going to use Floyd's equipment and take the shop out from under the Inglis couple is absurd - he had people lined up to redo the space.
At dawn, when the Floyd's staff began moving out the last of the equipment and painting over the yellow sign, they were surprised by another arrival at the door. Boxes of pastries and bagels showed up for the post-Floyd's coffee shop Durand planned to have open that morning in the space. In the last hours of the lease, Floyd's moved its entire self just half a block away and opened its doors — not missing a single day of business. In the old drive thru store front, a new coffee shop is nearly ready to open for business: King Harvest Coffee.
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