April 1, 2010

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Good Food Market to close on April 3

It would appear that the few have decided for the many in the case of the Good Food Market. Last week owner Jennifer Zoga decided to close the market on April 3, citing the recent and prolonged battle with a handful of residents and ongoing confusion over licensing as the reasons.

“I know that I am disappointing a lot of people for not fighting, but there comes a time when you realize that winning won’t make the nastiness go away,” wrote Zoga on the store’s blog announcing its closing.

Ultimately, the recent issue with the Department of Licenses and Inspections brought to light a further problem with the store’s license. Zoga still does not have the proper license to operate the deli case. She was able to obtain the proper permit, but her business license prohibits her from selling prepared food.

Before she opened, a food inspector from the Office of Food Protection visited the store and gave her an approval for license 3120, which allows for on-site food preparation and serving. According to Zoga, the license then goes to L&I for acceptance or rejection. L&I rejected the store’s 3120 license, saying it was too broad and issued the more restrictive 3118 license.

“At the time, the zoning hearing was a week away, and I thought I could get the licensing issue straightened out after that,” she said.

Instead Zoga was blindsided by the zoning board’s denial of her variance. She had gone thought he Chestnut Hill Community Association’s process, received its support and was told that the variance was hers.

“I was told that the zoning board almost never refuses a variance when you have the community’s support,” she said. “After the hearing I was overwhelmed and I forgot to resolve it.”

Straightening out the license issue would require more lawyers, more money and more time. All three of which, said Zoga, she simply doesn’t have.

In a prepared statement, Walter Sullivan, CHCA president, called the market’s closing “a loss to the community.”

“It has been a beautiful market serving us all,” he said.

If the store’s closing will be a loss for its patrons, it can be seen as a victory for a small group of individuals whose energy has been unwaveringly focused on shutting down the market. For customers and residents, losing the Good Food Market is a blow to the economic viability of doing business in Chestnut Hill. And for Zoga, it is both a professional and personal loss. She will walk away with debt and a heavy heart.

“I am going to take some time to heal,” she said.

The Chestnut Hill resident said she loves the neighborhood and would prefer to go back to being just a resident and focus on enjoying the community.

“Everyone is really angry at Chestnut Hill,” Zoga said, referring to the responses she’s gotten to her announcement to close the store. “But they shouldn’t be angry at Chestnut Hill. It’s only a handful of nasty people. Everyone else has been really wonderful.

“If we could get rid of this handful of bullies, this could be the best neighborhood in the country.”


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