I was saddened several weeks ago when Leon Shelkoff called to tell me that his store, Leon's Menswear in the Statesboro Mall, would close at the end of 2012. Documentation provided to me by Shelkoff showed the owners of the mall - Hull Storey Gibson Companies, LLC - had called Shelkoff's lease requiring him to vacate the premises by January 6, 2013.
I became acquainted with Shelkoff several years ago when I did an article on Leon's. To know Shelkoff is to know someone who is truly passionate about their chosen profession. He loves his store and his customers.
If you have ever been into Leon's Menswear then you know that it is an eclectic mix with just about anything you can imagine that a man would want to wear. It reminds me of department stores from the past. Not glitzy or glamorous, just a lot of really interesting clothing from cowboy boots and overalls to Hawaiian print shirts.
It is a throwback in a way, and it is a shame that Leon's is not going to be a mall tenant after December.
I spoke at length with Shelkoff, and he is truly distraught. So much so that he has written a number of times to the owners of the mall requesting that they let him finish out the term of his current lease which I understand would end in 2014. He agrees that his lease with Hull Storey Gibson can be terminated with notice at their discretion, and he is not arguing that point.
Shelkoff said he was operating from a standpoint of trust born from a 29-year relationship with mall ownership.
"When I signed the lease, they said that they would take care of me, and that to me implied a relationship of trust," Shelkoff said. "When the interior of the mall was remodeled last year, a number of pictures were put up of historical scenes of Statesboro to give the facility a very local feel. Now, they are kicking out a local businessman who has supported this mall for almost three decades. I just don't understand."
Shelkoff said all he really wanted to do was finish out the last two years of his lease in the mall, and now that isn't going to happen.
"It would have been nice to go out with dignity," he said.
I did attempt to elicit a comment from Hull Storey Gibson, but my phone calls have not been returned. It should be noted that the firm has offered to try and relocate Leon's to another one of their retail shopping developments in Statesboro - specifically, Southern Square and Gentilly Square.
Shelkoff, however, said he has no plans to reopen his store at another location at this time.
Well, what have we learned from this? Contracts trump words and hand shakes every day of the week.
So, until next Tuesday, I bid you au revoir.
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