The shocking announcement on Tuesday, January 17 that beloved local bookstore Cellar Door Books was having their lease terminated at the end of February created quite a bit of controversy. Even Congressman Mark Takano visited the store last week and cited speculation that its lease termination had a “potential connection to the hosting of Drag Queen Story hour” at the book store. In a press release Canyon Crest Town Centre management claimed “these rumors are completely and totally unfounded and could not be further from the truth.”
CCTC management has not yet responded to any of our inquiries, but we have spoken to other business owners who have also had their leases terminated:
- Canyon Crest Ice Cream & Water Store
- Cellar Door Books
- Kiddos 101
- Marisa’s Italian Deli
- Romano’s Italian Restaurant
As far as we can tell, after their initial leases were fulfilled the Town Centre’s developer and original owner, Mark Thompson, never asked the stores to sign long-term leases or to pay common area maintenance fees to support the costs of maintaining the Centre’s well-maintained facilities.
Canyon Crest Winery is also leaving the Centre, apparently by their own choice which was made prior to these announcements. It is speculated Lot 22 Olive Oil Co will be not have their lease renewed when it expires, but this is not yet confirmed.
Though none of our sources wish to be named, most of them are devastated not just by the abrupt termination their leases, but by the continued grief at the loss of Mark Thompson, who built Canyon Crest Town Centre in 1978, and his son Scott Thompson who managed the property alongside his father. We have heard Mark described as “an angel” and a story of his public fight against neighborhood bigotry and racist statements about the “kind of people fried chicken attracts” when he worked to bring Kentucky Fried Chicken to the property.
The community uproar this past week is an indicator of just how vital Riverside’s small independent business are to the experience and beauty of our community. A simple drive around the city will remind you how many of these small businesses are located in commercial properties that have long been owned by other Riverside’s who are now themselves aging. It is likely that the near future will see other commercial properties under new management who may not treat their properties the way their original owners did.
I’m still not sure what we can do about all of this or if there even is anything we can do. But for now, I’m grabbing a Yardbird and a raspberry cremosa from Marissa’s and doubling down on my own commitment to Riverside’s small business community.
Correction: An earlier version of this story wrongly listed The Sacred Journey among the list of stores who had their leases terminated.