Ben Franklin, Webster U: Please Go Back to the Bargaining Table
In an email to Ben Franklin and Webster University, Webster Groves resident Dave Buck asks the two to negotiate a new lease agreement in an effort to save the beloved local crafts store.
In an effort to save the Old Orchard Ben Franklin from closing for good, a patron of the beloved craft store has asked the shop's owners and Webster University to go back to the bargaining table.
Dave Buck, a Webster Groves resident, and his family have shopped at the store for years. On Thursday he sent an email to Gary Hampel, Ben Franklin's owner, and to Greg Gunderson, Webster University's vice president and CFO, asking the two entities to try to negotiate a new lease agreement to save the craft store.
The strip center in which Ben Franklin is housed is owned by Webster University. This week, Hampel told Patch one of the reasons he decided to close the store was a substantial, non-negotiable increase in rent. However, he added that the sour economy and the fact that his store sells "wants," not needed items, also contributed to the decision.
At Tuesday's Webster Groves City Council meeting, Gunderson said the university regretted Ben Franklin's decision not to renew its lease. He also said the current lease was 40 percent below market rate, and that the university is working with a Realtor to find a new tenant with a focus on retail.
"Is it too late for Gary and Greg to sit down together — respectfully, cordially and collaboratively — to see if they can work out a new mutually beneficial and agreeable solution and deal that's a win-win-win for Webster University; that keeps Ben Franklin open for business; and keeps its many customers happy?" Buck wrote in the email.
In an interview Thursday, Hampel said he doesn't anticipate getting a call from Webster University to renegotiate the lease.
"It's a little late," he said. "But I'd listen if they did call."
Patch called Gunderson regarding Buck's idea. In an email response, a university spokesperson said, "Out of respect for the privacy for of our Old Orchard tenants, we keep details of our lease negotiations confidential."
Ben Franklin's going-out-of-business sale began Wednesday. Hampel said the store will remain open until mid-October or until all merchandise and fixtures are sold.