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Mouthpiece for Reston Town Center Merchants Says His Business Is on the Outs

by Dave Emke — August 25, 2017 at 2:45 pm 27 Comments

Aaron Gordon has owned Red Velvet Cupcakery (11939 Democracy Drive) in Reston Town Center for seven years.

He does not believe there will be an eighth.

“I feel very, very, very confident that they are planning not to renew our lease, and they’re stonewalling us,” Gordon said. “This is all retaliation, plain and simple.”

Gordon has been one of the most outspoken opponents of paid parking at Reston Town Center, initiated in January by RTC owners Boston Properties. Gordon was one of the organizers and is the mouthpiece for the Reston Merchants Association, a group of business owners and managers at RTC fighting the system.

Now, as Gordon looks at negotiating a lease extension with his landlord, he believes the spotlight he’s put on himself through the Merchants Association is making such an extension impossible.

“I have no doubt that they are retaliating against me and Red Velvet Cupcakery for being one of the leaders of the fight against paid parking,” he said. “I have a whole timeline of reasons I believe this to be true.”

We reached out to Gordon’s landlord, Boston Properties, and were told by spokesperson Marion Myers that “lease negotiations with tenants and prospects are not communicated publicly until both parties are in agreement.”

Gordon said Red Velvet Cupcakery’s lease at the Town Center comes up in May. Last year, he said, he was in negotiations not just to renew, but to bring another of his concepts, Bakers and Baristas, to the Town Center as well.

“Before this whole battle, they loved Red Velvet, they loved me as an owner, and they loved the new concepts I [would be] putting in,” he said. “Until, of course, now.”

Gordon says he is almost certain there will be no agreement with the landlord, as he feels they are going out of their way to make sure he knows he is no longer welcome at the Town Center — where he says he makes a “fairly modest but steady income” despite what he says is an 8-10 percent drop in sales in 2017.

“We received a message from them — we couldn’t even get a meeting — that, basically, they’re looking for new and fresh ideas and they want to scour the marketplace, and we may not fit into their plans, but they won’t know until the end of the year,” he said. “In my mind, this is ‘Shut up until the end of year, because we’re considering you, but we’re looking for new and fresh ideas.’ The whole thing is ludicrous.”

“Different, unique, locally owned — that’s everything Red Velvet is,” he added.

He said he isn’t in any official talks yet about a new home, but he is considering numerous locations around the area, from Ashburn to Tysons.

“That being said, we’d ideally like to stay in Reston,” he said, owing to a great community, loyal customers and a Reston-based workforce force. “My hope would be that we can attract new customers in a new location and that we can keep our old customers [as well].”

Gordon said that at a recent meeting of the Reston Merchants Association, some members reported a “slight uptick” in sales since parking rules were loosened to allow an hour free during the day and no charge after 5 p.m. However, he added, the average company is still down around 25 percent from this time last year.

“I posed the question [of whether] people feel their sales will ever get back to normal,” Gordon said. “About half the owners said we would probably get back to past levels of sales if and only if paid parking was completely taken back. The other half said we’ll never get back to past sales, because we’ve lost many of our clients forever. They’ve sworn off the Town Center and changed their buying patterns.”

He said the group would meet again soon to check in with each other and continue to discuss how they’ll move forward, including with the possibility of legal action against their landlord. (Boston Properties has said it is “very confident” it will prevail in any legal action, though Jackson’s won a preliminary injunction in its case to keep parking for its customers free.)

“When you’re in retail, your landlord and your shop are in a partnership. We’re supposed to work together, in concert,” Gordon said. “In this case, our landlord is definitely not working for our betterment. One very wealthy company is out to ruin 100 other companies they are supposed to be partnering with, for a quick money grab with no long-term vision.”

Personally speaking, though, Gordon said his involvement in the fight against paid parking might change a lot if and when his business on Democracy Drive closes its doors.

“If we’re not renewed, I’ll have very different feelings, as you can imagine, toward my landlord,” Gordon said. “I can’t help but saying I’ll care a whole lot less about the future of Reston Town Center.”

  • watchthewingnuts

    I’m sure One Loudoun would love to have them as a tenant. Since BP got all greedy, I haven’t been to RTC a single time, nor will I go back.

  • Andrew

    A partnership being formed with a lease? That’s original. I don’t think any fiduciary duties are owed by nature of being in a landlord tenant relationship. Of course, maybe there are covenants or something of that sort in the contract. If there were no duties owed, then welcome to the free market, to be blunt. Nonetheless, I feel bad for the guy. Boston properties knew what they were doing, it’s only rational that transaction costs between consumers and products/services will harm sales.

    • Mike M

      The free market includes Red Velvet’s clients boycotting and Red Velvet leaving the BP offering. Yeah, there is a partnership – not in the legal sense, but in the functional sense. If BP offers a great venue for it’s tenants, they can charge more and get more over time. Instead BP has soiled it’s relationship with it’s tenants and the community. The tenants are BP’s market.

      • Reston Realist

        It’s very possible that RV has a percentage lease with BP where RV pays a percentage of their gross revenue over the base amount of the annual lease payment. If BP feels that they can get a more profitable tenant in that space, then that’s their prerogative. In a sense they do have a”partnership” — If RV succeeds, then so does BP. In their estimation, a “partnership” with another tenant may be more fruitful. It is truly all about the $$ with BP – Always!

        It’s a shame though, Red Velvet is a great shop, but probably just aren’t profitable enough for BP…

        • meadowlands

          If Reston is boycotted it won’t matter who goes in RV’s spot. I can’t imagine there is a business dumb enough to think they would survive. Parking is the issue. If that doesn’t change they would meet the same fate. If people don’t come because of the parking it won’t be any different for another business

  • Richard

    Abandon RTC. I don’t much care for red velvet flavor or cupcakes, but I promise to visit the new location and down some of them in solidarity with this guy. Can’t go there now, though. I maintain my boycott of RTC.

  • mdcoon127

    Come to Mosaic or Fairfax Corner!

  • Karen Lumpkins

    What about relocating to Herndon? That would be great. I don’t go to the town center anymore as I refuse to pay for parking since I pay RA (RHOA) to live in Reston and paying to park is double charging me to live here.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Herndon would be great until Herndon Man comes and robs the place.

      • RestonAssurance

        Hopefully Herndon will hire some of the finest in blue to keep us safe from Herndon Man!

        • The Constitutionalist

          Hopefully.

    • TBex

      Yeah like how you had to pay for your house and then also pay for your car. The realtors and car dealerships should be ashamed.

  • Aaron Gordon

    Thanks for all of your kind wishes and suggestions! My wife and I are reading them now and feel great to have so many folks wishing us well. We are just starting to look at locations like Lake Anne, RTC West, Plaza America, etc. I’m sure we’ll find something wonderful!

    • KtM

      If you move to another part of Reston, so will your customers. Maybe it’s better for you to go! People avoid RTC including myself just to show we protest with our pockets!

    • RVA_101

      RTC West please! You guys would be literally be less than 0.1 miles from my house

      • TBex

        Is parking at RTC West going to be cheaper?

        • Big Drop

          It is free. In fact Cooper Hawk has COMPLIMENTARY FREE VALET PARKING.

    • SuperCoop1280

      I hope you stay in Reston or can find a place close to Reston so you don’t lose customers or your staff. However, if sales are down (which i am not surprised with the parking fiasco at RTC), why stay? It would probably make a bigger and bolder statement to move and see revenue go back up. IF that happened, others at RTC would most likely follow.

      In any event, best of luck.

  • LakeNewportLady

    Come to North Point or Lake Anne!

  • meadowlands

    I used to like going to Reston but I haven’t been there since this parking nonsense. It’s terrible that good businesses are being closed.

  • CaptainObvious

    It’s too bad that the greedy, short-sighted ones at BP didn’t listen to Aaron Gordon and other smaller businesses before going full bore down the disastrous parking scheme damaging the reputation and economics of RTC.
    Reston Town Center has a fatal flaw much like the case of the Washington Redskins football team. Our hometown Redskins have dysfunctional owner Dan Snyder, while Reston’s Town Center has the greedy, dysfunctional owner Boston Properties.
    Solution for both–regime change!

    • RestonAssurance

      Yes, please!

  • Donald

    Look at Lake Anne, South Lakes Shopping Center, and North Point Shopping. Great customer traffic, and loyal customers will definitely go to those locations.

    Donald

    • May the swartz be vid you

      Also look at Starbucks, Peet’s and other coffee chains.

      Like Georgetown cupcakes you could be their premium supplier.

      Hopefully don’t waste your energies fighting BXP.

  • Blair

    The comment “they’ve sworn off the Town Center and changed their buying patterns” is spot on. I did that. Along the way I’ve discovered a number of really great shops and restaurants — and town centers — that I never knew existed. Reston Town Center businesses are not getting our money because Boston Properties ruined the experience.

  • TBex

    I dunno what to tell you guys. I was at RTC the other day during the day. I paid a reasonable amount to park and it was pretty crowded with all sorts of people. I might have enjoyed the trip more because I wasn’t surrounded by a bunch of whiners who want free storage for their fancy toys, but that’d be giving those people too much credit for the effect they have on the world around me.

  • Ray Wedell

    Killing the goose that laid the Golden Egg. The mismanagement by Boston Properties will be a required case study in many MBA classes going forward. The sad part is, so many corporations and government entities have this same mentality. I sense that most of what Mr. Gordon says is true.

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