TL;DR: our Greenfield store at 6120 West Layton Avenue will be closing by the end of June, 2020. Our other locations remain open.
Landlord: “Here’s a statement with your back rent total. You must pay it all. Now would be good.”
Tenant: “Our sales are down. We expect a lease modification to reflect this new pandemic-infected reality.”
Variations of this conversation are being had by many businesses across the country (across the world, I’m sure). I know some other retailers are having this conversation, and we’ve been having it with all of our landlords. It is a tricky conversation, even when all participants are compassionate and try to understand the other’s perspective. My thesis is that it is tricky because, even if the parties begin by trying to work together, there is an implicit game of hot potato with who gets to hold the uncertainty of when things return to “normal”. Or, in the case of the pandemic, who gets to hold the uncertainty of how long until a new-normal is reached, and then whether that new-normal will be equal to the before-times. Broadly speaking, we humans abhor uncertainty and we regularly go to great lengths to remove it from our perception. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
And it makes sense to remove uncertainty from our perception, even if reality remains uncertain. Maintaining uncertainty in one’s brain is hard work that requires a lot of mental energy. I know this is the case for me. Managing uncertainty is one of my core job responsibilities. It’s exhausting.
Back to our example above. For a landlord facing uncertain rents from a tenant whose sales are particularly impacted by the pandemic, “Better to cut them loose and get someone who can pay the (full) rent” doesn’t seem like a far-fetched thing to pop into the landlord’s head.
I don’t know that this is what our landlord at Greenfield was thinking, but it does fit the facts. Our sales are down. Our pre-pandemic business model that was centered around in-store events (i.e. humans interacting with other humans in close quarters over extended periods of time) has become invalid.* It will likely remain invalid until the population is widely vaccinated. Therefore, I requested a lease modification to reflect this new reality. Indeed, we’re in similar discussions at various stages with all of our landlords, the Greenfield landlord is the first to reach an endpoint, and that endpoint is of the “cut them loose” variety. The actual lease termination paperwork has been bouncing around in different stages of revision for a little while now and still isn’t final, but we began moving things out of the store about a week ago and are pretty far along.
The Greenfield store will be open for order pickup through the Magic 2021 preorders this weekend, and will close entirely by the end of June, the precise day based on when I have to turn off the network and remove the computers. I’ll turn Greenfield off as a pickup location for new orders soon. Some additional administrivia:
- Any orders that haven’t been picked up will be moved to Mayfair.
- We’ll call if one of your orders gets moved, and cancel it if you like.
- Greenfield’s special order / customer request card box has been moved to Mayfair. We’ll still call you when your request comes in.
- Any online preorders that had Greenfield as a pickup location will be filled at Mayfair. Looks like this will affect just the forthcoming Theros D&D book.
- Used Games have been moved to Mayfair and will be incorporated into Mayfair’s Used Game section.
Thank you to everyone who made Greenfield my favorite store all these years. Whether you were a customer who shopped our store, a player who played in our events, a Champion who helped make those events happen, a Barrister who help make it all happen – and particularly those of you who filled all of those roles – thank you. It was a good run. I invite you to continue that run at our other stores.
If you know me, you know that I come up with ideas. Most … are not very good or cannot be executed. That’s okay, I sort through them quickly to see if any good ones can actually be executed. Out of ideas? Wait an hour, I’ll have more. So, yes, I have ideas for the future. Which ones are able to be executed depend on other people, first and foremost our other landlords.
As I intimated above, I’ve been talking to all of our landlords for some time – Greenfield is the first to reach an endpoint. Each landlord has their own situation, and they’ll make decisions they feel are best. We cannot get through this without cooperation from our landlords, and any solution has to be something that makes sense for each of them individually. That’s fair. So, what about the future? I don’t know what our future plans are. Not yet. But I have ideas.
I hope that the next time I get to write one of these blog posts it’s because I’m sharing an idea of some new future plan. Sounds like fun!
Until then, be well,
*For those keeping score at home, in-store events are directly responsible for a significant part of our business, which we can track from event tickets and our MVP club. Mayfair had the smallest portion of sales derived from events, but it was still a hefty 12%; North Shore was 25%, and Greenfield was a stunning 38% of overall sales directly attributed to in-store events in 2019. At best, I have to expect this business to be a faint shadow of its former self until the population is widely vaccinated. That means we need a change of business model to survive.