Duluth's 4th Street Market closed Monday after the business was evicted from its home amid a standoff over needed repairs and unpaid rent.
"It's frustrating; this place deserves a store," owner Matt Potter said. "It's not closing for lack of business. But this equipment is a killer."
The store at 102 E. Fourth St. has a leaky roof, broken coolers and no heat, Potter said - and he said that ought to be the responsibility of the building's owner to fix. So the market has withheld rent payments since December.
"We told them at this point we can't afford to pay you rent and operate our business without coolers or heat," Potter said. "These are pretty standard items, and they choose not to pay for them. Now we'll go to court and fight them on it."
The owner of the 140-year-old building - the Hurlbut-Zeppa Charitable Trust, which is owned by the Zeppa family and administered by the Zeitgeist Center for Arts & Community - put the building up for sale in the fall. Decisions surrounding the building are not made locally.
Court documents show 4th Street Market owes more than $12,000, which includes rent through February and its $2,200 share of property taxes last year.
A copy of the lease filed with the eviction action in State District Court in St. Louis County appears to show the landlord is not liable for "any defect in the condition of said... premises, or the equipment, fixture or appliances."
"The tenant shall be responsible for all equipment and structures needed for business operations," the lease reads.
Tony Cuneo, executive director of Zeitgeist Center for Arts & Community, said in a statement that "the trust that owns the building has supported the 4th Street Market for years.
"The hope was that the current store could continue to operate at least until a new buyer was identified. Unfortunately the situation has moved past that point now. This change isn't the outcome we hoped for, but we wish the Potters the best. We'll do whatever we can with the new owner to make sure the building makes a positive contribution to the neighborhood."
Potter was packing up the market Monday morning with his father and store co-owner, Tom; the eviction notice was filed Wednesday.
"It's kind of a sad situation and kind of a sad day around here," Potter said. "Even with the eviction, we thought we'd have 30 days - but in a business eviction it's five days, not 30. That sped the process up a bit."
The Potter family, which had run the Milkhouse on Central Entrance and the Hillside ICO, took over 4th Street Market in 2010 after it closed in 2009.
Two local residents who showed up to find locked doors Monday afternoon were taken aback by the closure.
"When I first moved here, my earliest memories were at this store," Jay Smith said. "I didn't expect this."
The next closest grocery options for Central Hillside residents are the SuperAmerica gas station and the Whole Foods Co-op at Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue East. The Plaza Super One is more than a mile away.
"Now everyone finally gets how severe this will be for all the low-income people," wrote James Zinmer on the Facebook group We Love 4th Street Market. "This is the time to rise up and say no we will not go back (and) we will not pay high prices at SuperAmerica."
A hearing on the eviction has been scheduled for Feb. 21.