Cafe stoush

A FEW years ago Carlos and Karen Florenco were winning national awards for their pies and sausages, but a few weeks ago they suddenly shut the doors on their supermarket and cafe in Mt Pleasant after the business went broke.

Their rapid departure has infuriated their landlord, who briefly put a sign in the window complaining about the $70,000 they owed him in rent.

The Florencos were well known for their 16-year stint as Pronto Gourmet Butchers in Mosman Park, but moved to Mt Pleasant in 2017 when the shopping centre was redeveloped. The Store & Cafe, featured a deli, cafe, market and an Italian chef.

Terse sign

Landlord Glenn O’Brien from Salt Properties says after experiencing financial difficulties the couple cleared out a few weekends back and dropped their keys on his desk.

Mr O’Brien admits being behind the rather terse sign that was in the window of the store “for about 20 minutes” after the couple left, blasting them for leaving him $70,000 short in rent.

He says the sign, which has since been replaced with one written by his solicitor, was an emotional reaction and a mistake.

Karen Florenco says the couple didn’t want to leave, and could have been supported better by the landlord.

“We have been having discussions with the landlord for many months to ask for a reduction in, or reprieve of, rent to assist us, to no avail,” she says.

“We then engaged a third party to invite the landlord to have discussions to see what options were available to us and the landlord, which the landlord declined.”

She says they took over the business in 2016 and despite a “terrible down-turn in the market for all small retailers” they strived to make it work.

“We had our family working in the business every day. During the two years we had a lot of support from local customers, and help from family and friends. We are disappointed there was not a better outcome.”

Mr O’Brien says they did try to help the business and provided a rent abatement for nine months, but now he’s left with perishables in the store and is out-of-pocket. He says there’s been a market-style store in the building for decades.

“It’s a great opportunity for a good operator to walk into a purpose-built shop.”

by MOLLY SCHMIDT

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