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Walmart Kills another Local Business

For almost 30 years we've lunched regularly at Fortune Pavillion Chinese restaurant on RT 34 in Derby, CT. It originally was next to Caldor, which is now a Walmart. Was last there for lunch on December 30 with Wife and MIL. Restaurant was one of the last Old-School Cantonese restaurants in southern CT. Waiters in cutaway gold or black coats and bow-ties and classical Cantonese Chinese-American cuisine at very reasonable prices.
Wife and I stopped today for lunch to find Tony (the owner) carting out dishes and glasses and a paper sign on the door: "CLOSED"
Tony told us that after 29 years he'd lost his lease. Walmart has put pressure on the shopping center owners to force him out so they could expand into that additional 3000 square feet.

So, now we'll have what no one needs, a larger Walmart, and a hard working family will loose their livelihood and classic cuisine will no longer be available. Wife is a realtor and will assist Tony in finding a new location. I decided to drive a few miles to Target to get my cat food and cleaning supplies, I'll not be spending any dollars in the Derby Walmart.

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  1. You better pay with cash at Target

    1. I agree that it is just awful that Walmart is taking over this space. I don't support that store. But in my experiences with Fortune Pavillion was not good. The food was barely edible, the usual take out quality of no significance. They did make a homemade dumpling soup for 2 that was ok. The dumplings did seem homemade, compared to the factory prepared wontons every Chinese place serves. Yes those wontons are so cheap for a reason. What is really in that filling? Once the waiter was impatient and angry because I wanted that homemade soup for me, for 1, and he couldn't understand why I didn't order the lunch special that comes with wonton soup. I was willing to pay more and up the check and he was indignant. That was the last time, the food wasn't good enough to sit in the dreary dining room and suffer nasty service.

      1. As you know well, Bagel, satellite stores in strip centers pay significantly more rent per sq/ft than anchor tenants, but when an anchor wants to expand, landlords destroy others' livelihoods without flinching. Walmart doesn't like landlords, either, whenever possible they purchase their locations. I have worked with them, they are fair but shrewd negotiators.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Veggo

          Walmart couldn't buy this location, they bought the Caldor lease in the bankruptcy proceedings.

          In any of my dealings with Walmart as a vendor or landlord I found them to be shrewd negotiators, but never fair. Back when I made lady's nightwear for a living we finally had enough and told Walmart we wouldn't sell them anymore product. Our net profits for that year increased more than 30%.

        2. Damn! As a kid, my grandparents took me there back when Caldor was next to it. Far East in New Haven, and China Wheel in Hamden were in the dining rotation at the time, also of that genre, tablecloths, jacketed waiters, etc. A shame. Walmart was the 800lb gorilla, but I also blame the site owner for being bullied

          2 Replies
          1. re: BiscuitBoy

            BB..............as you know I grew up in the retail business and dad had 15 stores. He had a problem at the end of a 20 year lease when JC Penney wanted to expand a store that sat next to one of dad's. The landlord said to dad, you've been a great tenant and have stores in 5 of my centers, BUT Penney's has stores in 90 of my centers and you lose. Dad closed that branch. 2 years later Penneys closed that stiore to move to a new enclosed mall. The former Penney store sat vacant for 5 years. Served the landlord right.

            1. re: bagelman01

              We shopped at your store (well Mom did, I was a wee tyke)

          2. plenty of empty storefronts and old restaurants within a few miles of that location -- they can't move to one of those and not be "killed"?

            Yes, moving an established business sucks, but if you're good and you truly are established (and 29 years sure sounds established), I'm certain there must be landlords who'd be happy to have a going concern move in.

            5 Replies
            1. re: L2k

              The owners are looking at other spaces. But there is a big difference between a shopping center location with established traffic/custyomer counts than empty failed restaurant locations,

              Furthermore there is a significant cost to fitting out a new establishment. Much of the equipment was affixed to the walls/floors/building and may have become the property fo the landlord (under the terms of most commercial leases). Other things were grandfthered under the building codes and would have to be done at a much more expensive cost in a new location.

              A shopping center drives traffic 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. A main street location might not drive any weekend lunch business or night business.

              1. re: bagelman01

                Very true about relocating restaurants. New roof penetrations for cooking equipment, vapor barriers to contain food odors from neighboring tenants, often increased air conditioning equipment, and parking requirements often are dictated by the number of seats in the restaurant which can impact parking for a center.

                1. re: bagelman01

                  I don't disagree, but now that they are closed, it is going to be much harder to reopen rather than looking for a suitable new location while still open.

                  1. re: L2k

                    Most commercial leases provide for several months near the end of the lease for both tenant and landlord to communicate an intention to renew, or not, so it is never a last minute surprise.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      In this case the landlord kept the tenant at the table negotiating the renewal until almost the last minute and then dropped the bombshell that Walmart wanted the space, you're out. The tenant's story is that the landlord wasn't acting in good faith, but there are more than one side to the story.

              2. And you think the same situation wouldn't play out if you substitute Target (or any other major tenant) for Walmart in this scenario? That's pretty naïve.

                4 Replies
                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Never claimed that any other retailer would act differently than Walmart. This post is about a particular restaurant in this board's geographic area who has been forced to close after 29 years due to Walmart's insistence on taking the space.

                  Nothing naive about that.

                  To quote Sgt Joe Friday....."Just the facts."

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    Then choosing to patronize Target as some sort of "revenge" against Walmart is pointless.

                    1. re: carolinadawg

                      I didn't say choosing to buy from Target instead of Walmart was 'revenge', stop putting words in my mouth!

                      Choosing not to reward Walmart with my dollars for putting this specific restaurant/family out of business is the point of my decision. Target is the next closest mass merchandiser where I can buy these items. The regional discount store chains are all long gone: Caldor, Bradlee's, Ames, etc.

                      I'm entitled to choose where to spend my money. If I don't like the way a company does its business, or the politics of the majority owners, etc, I don't spend money there

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Ok, so lets say "punish" instead of revenge. If it makes you feel better, then have at it.

                2. Oh please. The landlord invested in property to make money, not accommodate your Chinese food preferences. Walmart exists to make money by having locations that serve its customers, not to bow out of a quest for suitable space because the restaurant owners are nice folks.

                  Everyone is behaving exactly as they should in a free market economy. Being outbid for space is a normal risk of renting. The restaurant owners agreed to a lease without any, or without enough,guaranteed renewal options. They took a risk, and lost. My favorite seafood store just closed down because the landlord got a better offer from a cupcake place--good for him. The cupcake folks aren't evil, they didn't "kill" the seafood store. Same goes for Walmart. I guarantee a lot more people will enjoy the expanded Walmart than ever ate at that Chinese restaurant.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MommaJ

                    Bagelman indicated the tenant had been at that location almost 30 years. Few commercial leases have options beyond that term, and there is the chance the tenant had been paying a favorable older rate, we don't know. In my experiences, when low-rate anchors want to expand into adjacent higher rate satellite space, they are willing to pay the higher rate to make the deal.
                    P.S. I'm not disagreeing with a single thing either of you has said here, but you can't fault bagelman for sympathizing with a restaurant he patronized for 3 decades.

                  2. To look at the Walmart business model, they're even more evil than you think. Buying from small companies on consignment, so that if an item doesn't sell up to their expectations, they return it without financial penalty. Buildings constructed with a short term life expectancy and then they bolt from them into newer, bigger buildings. Everyone should find an alternative to Walmart, not just those who are disappointed that they can't get Chinese food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: DockUMentary

                      Walmart does what you indicate, but I hesitate to call it evil. Suppliers and landlords are sophisticated as well, and know they are doing business with a snake. Capitalism is a tough game. A smart landlord should profit from a Walmart relocating or expanding.
                      I recall a shopping center negotiation with a buyer in Chicago, in the $13 million range, who called me an asshole, and hung up. He phoned back 10 minutes later and said "But I'm still willing to do business with assholes. "
                      Made my day.

                    2. I just heard about this today from one of my friends. What an awful mess for that family. Please keep me informed if and when they find a new location.

                      1. I recently tried Hunan Pan in Shelton and it was mostly awful. Their fried rice is not sauteed in a wok at all in my opinion. It's gummy and dry and has no flavor whatsoever! The beef with broccoli was not bad but "where's the beef"? There was hardly any. The dipping sauce they give you with the steamed dumplings is very plain. I will not being going back here. Has anyone found out if the owners of Fortune Pavilion are reopening somewhere else? Where else can I go for takeout. One of my friends used to frequent Lao Szechuan in Milford but he ever said that's not as good anymore. Id I do order beef with broccoli elsewhere can I ask for more beef and say I am willing to pay more? I live in Ansonia and keep wondering where I am going to find decent chinese takeaway or dine in anymore?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: javaandjazz

                          I completely agree with you about Hunan Pan, went once and never returned. We love Lao Sze Chuanj in Milford, but never had takeout. Excellent takeout from Hong Kong in Milford (Red Bush Plaza) near DiBella Subs.

                          1. re: javaandjazz

                            I only discovered Lao Sze Chuan in Milford relatively recently (thanks CH posters) so I can't say whether it has declined over the years, but I have eaten there a few times over the past months and believe that it is the best Chinese restaurant for miles around.

                            Their Szechuan specialties (Dan-Dan Noodles, Ma-Po Tofu, Cumin Lamb) are in a class just below NYC's best. My wife can't tolerate the spicier Szechuan cuisine, so she has tried some of the more "standard" (Americanized?) dishes and the results have been more uneven, which is not unexpected.

                            Each time we have visited, we left wishing that it was much closer to our home!

                            1. re: SteveSCT

                              Thanks Bagelman and SteveSCT. I'll keep those places in mind and try Lao again and Hong Kong.

                              1. re: javaandjazz

                                Hong Kong has the best (meatiest and juiciest) spare ribs you'll find anywhere. Also fantastic is their Golden Mushroom Soup, unlike any we had outside of China.

                                Youngest B daughter is Chinese, and we spent much tome in China, Hong Kong and Macau over the years. Lao Sze Chuan is great Chinese food. It is NOT Chinese-American food, and their few attempts at Chinese-American food (to satsify those who enter by mistake) are very feeble.