JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After refusing to be bought out of his lease, a Mandarin business owner said the property owner retaliated by putting up cement barriers to block off the front entrances to the parking lot last week, which were still in place Monday.
Ryan Hoback, the owner of Hoby's Honey & General Store, told News4Jax that Triforce Development LLC took over ownership of the property last week.
Before then, the new owner offered to buy Hoback out of his lease that's set to be up in 2020. He declined the offer.
"When they came with a buyout offer, I told them if it was lucrative and would enhance my business, I would take it. But what they did was try to low ball us, and put us in a position with the barricades where we fell we can't operate to our fullest extent," Hoback said.
Then about 11 a.m. Friday, Hoback said, the property owner had cement barriers brought in to close off the front entrances to the parking lot on San Jose Boulevard.
TriForce Development cited "safety" as its reason for putting up the barriers, according to Hoback. A person nearby told News4Jax off-camera Monday that the parking lot is too close to San Jose Boulevard.
Over the weekend, Hoby's had a jump in sales thanks to customers who came out to show their support.
The business' sign said open on Monday, but customer said the parking lot is misleading because it was empty when the arrived.
"I couldn't figure it out for a while. I think most people will find out. I missed my early turn-off and forgot about the barricade and had to drive a half a block and walk back," said customer Liz Papenbrook.
Aside from the confusion over where to park, the big question is why the road, riddled with potholes, is the only way to get into the business.
"It makes me feel like they don't want people to support this business. It is a local, small business. And I have a small business of my own and would want people to access my business easily and they're making it not possible to access this business easily," said customer Tanya Arnett.
Since Friday, the community has rallied and Hoback said he is humbled by the support.
"We're not really sure how long that's going to last. I think it has to do with the social presence online. But it's really a testament to the quality of people in this area, because they've called, people have showed up, people have written and they've just come out to say, we support small business, they think this is wrong and we want to let you know we care about that," Hoback said.
News4Jax reached out to the city in regard to the property. It responded, saying as a general rule, any new development should have a landscape strip at least 5-feet wide between the sidewalk and parking lot. But because the property was developed in 1960, which predates that regulation, it would have to install that landscape if it redevelops or expands.
Per Code Enforcement, the city also said, prior to purchasing a property, potential owners arrange for building inspection by private contractors or other qualified parties to determine the property's structural status.
A Triforce spokesperson released the following statement Monday to News4Jax:
“Our paramount concern is the safety of the shoppers and families in our community. Relocation of the access serves as a precautionary measure as we study whether the close proximity of the parking spaces to San Jose Boulevard poses a safety hazard. Tomorrow, we will install signs at each entry way directing shoppers to the new entrance.”