Struggling pet store owner evicted

Paws Pets owner Leslie Thompson is losing her business and on the verge of homelessness, thanks to declining sales she says are the result of her building being remodeled.

South Park Village, on Mile Hill Drive, has been in the remodeling process since April. Paws Pets is only one of a dozen businesses in the plaza, but Thompson said her store was one of the hardest hit by the chaos of construction.

She said she has lost 75 percent of her business since the remodeling began. Thompson faults the mess and boards which clogged the entrance to her store and made it difficult for customers to tell whether or not she was open. She also said because she had to take her sign down, she lost a great deal in visibility.

Paws Pets sits at the end of the plaza furthest from Mile Hill Drive.

“They all said from the beginning how great this remodel was supposed to be,” Thompson said. “I feel so bad for all my customers.”

Other shop owners are suffering as a result of the construction as well. Cinema One Video, located near the entrance to the plaza, has lost up to $6,000 a month in sales. The owner, Diane Launius, said the construction equipment has blocked her drive-through, raw materials have impeded access to her entrance and because of the confusion and lack of visible signage, many people think her store is closed.

“We are hopeful the public will re-train themselves to come back here,” She said. “That is the most difficult thing in business to do — to win the customers back. I cannot judge my losses in that way.”

Launius said she has had to restructure staffing and reassess everything she buys — from films to candy. Right now, she is operating on a skeleton crew.

“It’s tough — it’s gone on for so long,” Launius said. However, “I think it’ll be real nice for the public when it’s done.”

A few businesses in the plaza said they were not terribly affected by the remodel. Eric Linn, general manager of the complex’s Papa John’s, said his store is just waiting for the construction to be over. He said he’s looking forward to the updated look the plaza will have, even though he said business has been a little slower than usual the past few months.

“When they’re done, I think it’ll be a boon for all the merchants here,” Linn said.

Neil Walter Company, which manages the complex, had no comment except to say the remodel is expected to be finished by the second week in December.

For Thompson, however, the wait was just too long.

She said she was evicted for being behind on her rent, and now must declare bankruptcy to protect what remains of her assets.

Thompson also said she is currently fighting with the bank to keep her car and the trailer she lives in from being repossessed. She was offered a job at Peninsula Seed and thinks she might take it as a way to keep working.

“We’re just hoping that everything works out, somehow,” she said. “It’s so hard for me — I put my heart and soul into it.”

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