WESTFIELD, NJ — Andrew Calcagno of Flatiron Realty LLC, the new property owner of 50-52 Elm Street in Downtown Westfield — where Castle Bootery is located — said he was surprised to learn in an email announcement Friday that the 70-year-old children’s shoe store would close at the end of December.
“This was the first ‘notice’ we received that Castle Bootery was not renewing its lease as was our understanding through the recent property transfer,” Calcagno and his wife, Regina, wrote in a letter to the editor Saturday.
“This is especially troubling for a number of reasons,” the letter continues. “As Westfield residents, we too were loyal customers of Castle Bootery for many years, we understand the value of local business, and we are investors in our downtown. We purchased the building from Eric Graff, who is also the owner of Castle Bootery. Eric knew Castle Bootery’s lease was expiring on at the end of the year, Dec. 31, 2018. If Eric wanted Castle Bootery to ‘stay in business,’ all he had to do is simply renew his own lease, but Eric decided to just let his lease lapse.
“We purchased Eric’s building based upon the current rent roll and prospective rent roll, as we had reached a clear understanding with Eric that Castle Bootery would renew its lease based upon the same terms Eric had negotiated for himself as the prior building owner.
“Once Eric received the sales proceeds from the sale of his building, it became apparent that our attempts to renegotiate his lease terms as an incentive to keep this long-term, valued tenant were in vain.
“We don’t understand the claim that Castle Bootery has ‘lost their lease’ — they simply chose not to renew their lease.
“We are the same owners of Westfield’s Flat Iron Building, which is a true ‘gem’ and the pinnacle of Westfield’s beautiful downtown. Restoring Westfield’s Flat Iron Building was a true ‘labor of love’ for the Westfield community.
“There are no ‘winners’ in this scenario. We are saddened by Castle Bootery’s Announcement; not because the purchase of the building was predicated on a full rent roll, but because we did not want to lose such an important retailer downtown. We believe in Westfield and are very committed to the long-term health and prosperity of our town.”