Claims of bullying and intimidation as local icon implodes
ROMANO’S Fine Foods in Beaconsfield Plaza is closing after nearly 40 years, with a new owner blaming bullying and intimidation.
An emotional Lesley Pieper took to social media last Sunday (February 17) to announce she was closing the Italian deli at the end of the month.
“The toxic culture of bullying, nastiness, indifference and intimidation within the shopping centre won’t change any time soon,” she posted on Facebook. “Like any abusive relationship, its time to walk away.”
The comment section quickly turned into a battlefield.
“Instead of blaming ‘bullying & harassment’ you should probably think about how you actually run your business!” read one post.
“Romano’s has gone downhill since it changed hands. I’m not really going to miss it,” wrote another.
But other locals posted messages of support and sympathy: “The area has changed so much for the worse over the years.”
Ms Pieper says she had been beset with bad luck since taking over Romano’s 18 months ago.
In May last year a car ploughed through the store’s front windows.
It took more than seven months to repair the damage and Romano’s front door had to be boarded-up.
“We lost 30 per cent of trade and customers didn’t know we were open,” Ms Pieper says.
“You can’t run a small business without a front door. I haven’t slept since the car went through that door.”
Ms Pieper says small businesses are doing it tough in an ailing economy.
“Rents are high, people have less disposable income and there’s strong competition–it’s not a grand lifestyle”
When Romano’s opened in 1980, original owner Romano Nanni also managed the shopping centre.
Ms Pieper received support from baker Nick Agostino, who established Il Panino in the plaza in 1996 and says Mr Nanni was a great landlord.
“While Mr Romano Nanni was managing Romano’s and the centre himself as the owner it was a family centre and it was beautiful,” he said.
“Once Mr Romano Nanni sold Romano’s and retired and the centre is been ran by the current landlords and management the whole centre has lost the family and harmony feel.”
The Chook contacted shopping centre management, but they declined to comment.
by CHARLIE BRAY