THE owner of Hilton’s IGA has been left devastated after his landlord signed a deal with one of Australia’s supermarket giants to redevelop the site behind his back.
Gino Divitini told the Herald the first he knew about the development was a staff member calling him a week ago to ask about an application posted on Fremantle council’s community consultation website.
The next day two signs also appeared in his car park advertising a 3,123sqm supermarket, liquor store and cafe with an underground car park.
“From my point of view we have been trying for three years to get a lease from the landlord and by all accounts we thought we had it,” Mr Divitini said.
He says negotiations were well advanced with his landlord for a multi-million dollar upgrade to the site, which would have involved adding windows along South Street to brighten the place up, new paintwork, and solar panels on a new roof.
“When it’s raining heavily it leaks like a colander,” Mr Divitini said.
He had negotiated with IGA’s umbrella company Metcash for a $2 million renovation of the store’s interior.
“We would have been fantastically looking forward to repaying the customers for being with us for 12 years,” he said.
“The place was losing money when I bought it, but we have made it into a good, strong business looking like this,” he says of its decidedly dowdy interior, “so imagine if you can have a nice new shop what it might have achieved.
“But now I walk away after 12 years with absolutely zilch.”
Mr Divitini employs 80 staff and says they were rocked by the news but have stuck by him.
“Verbally they have said they will be here right to the end.”
Mr Divitini is convinced he’s been gazumped by Coles, saying the supermarket giant had already tried to buy him out twice and will be looking to keep a local presence when the Fremantle store closes temporarily for the Woolstores shopping centre redevelopment.
A couple of Mr Divitini’s staff we spoke to said they had no interest in trying to get a job with one of the major supermarkets if they moved in.
Anne told the Herald there was an autonomy at an independent supermarket that allowed her to order in items requested by customers, who she says will miss out on the service they currently provide.
“Just last week one of our customers got hit by a car out the front, and we did a card for her and someone went and visited her in hospital – I doubt that would happen with Mr Woolworths or Mr Coles,” she said. The Herald left a couple of messages with the Carcioni Group which owns the site, but they didn’t get back to us.
by STEVE GRANT