Ipswich fruit shop owner locked out of own store
A FRUIT shop owner is furious and his customers have been left scratching their heads after centre management locked him out of his own store in the early hours of this morning.
Habib Habchi, who operates H Fresh fruit and vegetables alongside business partner Sam Ghoussain, received an email at 12.57am yesterday morning to inform him that centre management at Redbank Plaza had made the decision to board up his fruit shop, located on the ground floor at the popular shopping precinct.
While there was no official warning of the drastic move, the Queensland Times understands there has been an ongoing dispute between the fruit shop owners and centre management regarding the location of stock unloading points.
While centre management claims Mr Habchi has failed to rectify several "issues", Mr Habchi claimed the centre had rented him a space with no adequate loading docks.
Distraught at the decision and concerned over the future of his eight employees, Mr Habchi sought legal advice this afternoon.
"They have previously issued us with breach notices regarding the way we unload stock for the shop," Mr Habchi said.
"But there is nowhere else for us to unload. I have asked centre management to give us a safe solution. They have relocated our loading area three times."
Mr Habchi and MrGhoussain have signed a 10-year lease on the shop, which they have occupied since December last year and invested almost half a million dollars in improvements.
The fruit shop has enjoyed strong business over the past five months, and Mr Habchi said he wanted his loyal customers to know that he hadn't closed by choice.
A steady flow of would-be customers looked mystified and they arrived at the front of the shop today, only to be greeted by a padlocked set of white timber doors and a sign saying the business was "no longer trading".
One regular customer, who asked not to be named, said he was disappointed by the move.
"I come here three times a week," he said.
"If I was running a business I would think centre management was acting a bit unfairly. They should be supporting guys like Habib and Sam and helping them find a solution."
Centre manager Paul Kelsey refused to go into detail regarding the issues which he said needed to be rectified, but said H Fresh was well aware of them and had been warned.
"To date these rectifications have not been actioned despite ongoing correspondence and warnings outlining the requirements and the consequences," Mr Kelsey said.
"We as a centre management team are running a shopping centre and it is obviously in our best interests, and makes the customers happy, to have retailers open and trading.
"So this decision was not one made lightly and was an absolute last resort."