A Red Bank meat business with World War II roots closed its doors Friday after the owners could not agree with the landlord on new lease terms.
Owners Debra Johnson and her daughter, Dana Palmer, had hoped to relocate the business to the English Plaza space recently vacated by Maxwell & Sophie, which moved around the corner to White Street. But faced with daunting costs and delays involved in a change of use at that address, they’ve dropped that plan for now, Johnson said.
“Everybody’s coming in here crying,” Johnson told redbankgreen after she’d locked her doors for the final time Friday afternoon. “I told them, tell it to the landlord.”
Johnson and Palmer, who bought the business from longtime owners Lee and Liz Brewer two years ago, also took over the former owners’ 10-year lease, which called for 3.5-percent year increases on the 2,100-square-foot space.
As the lease neared expiration, Palmer and Johnson said, building owner Joe Ruffini proposed a new lease that would increase the rent from $13 to $22 per SF, and later trimmed the figure to $19 per SF. But that was still too steep, the owners said.
Ruffini declined to comment.
That left Palmer and Johnson to wind down the shop. Whether the market will reopen is a complete unknown, Johnson said.
“Right now, I’m trying to make ends meet,” she said. “Maybe we’ll be rescued.”
According to Lee Brewer, who lives in Middletown, the business was launched in 1944 at a time of wartime meat rationing at 31 West Front Street, taking the space now occupied by the Front Street Trattoria and an adjacent rug store. At its peak, Brewer said, the business had 13 butchers on staff.
The founder, a Mr. Morris, also founded Monmouth Meats and another meat store in Little Silver, Brewer said.
After several interim owners, Brewer and his wife bought the business in 1986, and a decade later, relocated it to its present location.