Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank And Pie In The Sky At Odds
By: Brent Runyon
Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank filed a lawsuit against Pie in the Sky bakery on Water Street in Woods Hole last week in an ongoing dispute between two businesses in close confines.
The two buildings are separated by an alley, two-and-a-half feet wide in one section, that runs from Water Street to Railroad Avenue. Both buildings are on lots of .06 acres. The bank also owns a parking lot at 9 Railroad Avenue, which is directly between Pie in the Sky and Railroad Avenue.
According to the lawsuit, filed with the Dukes County Superior Court in Edgartown on June 11, the bank is requesting a court order to allow reshingling and replacement of windows on the side of the building facing Pie in the Sky. The bank also seeks to force Pie in the Sky to remove trash receptacles and business equipment from the bank’s property and asked the court to stop the restaurant from conducting any business operations on the property owned by the bank in the future. The bank is also seeking monetary damages, attorney’s fees, and other costs and relief.
Pie in the Sky owner Erik T. Gura said yesterday that the lawsuit would stop the bakery from receiving and shipping deliveries from the back door on Railroad Avenue, which he said would essentially cripple his business.
In response, Mr. Gura has hired a lawyer and taken his case to the public. He wrote a letter to customers and posted it in the bakery and on Facebook asking his customers to help in any way they can, including contacting the bank.
“As a small, independent business, the last thing Pie wants to do is be involved in a lawsuit,” Mr. Gura wrote. “Despite my many attempts at a mutually agreeable solution, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank has forced us to hire a lawyer to defend ourselves.”
“They are seeking monetary damages and also to stop us from receiving and shipping our deliveries via our back door, as we have done for the past 30 years,” he wrote. “As we move thousands of pounds of food and coffee in and out every day, this places an impossible burden on our customers and us.”
As a small, independent business, the last thing Pie wants to do is be involved in a lawsuit.
Pie in the Sky owner Erik Gura
He asked customers to contact him via e-mail if they could think of any solutions. As of this morning, 32 people had commented on Facebook in support of Mr. Gura and the bakery.
In his note, Mr. Gura included the phone number for Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank. Employees at the Bank of Woods Hole said they had already received calls from supporters of Pie in the Sky by noon yesterday.
“It’s unfortunate. I didn’t want it to come to this,” said Mr. Gura in a phone interview yesterday.
Attempts to interview Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank chief operating officer Richard J. Leonard were unsuccessful, but attorneys representing the bank provided a copy of the lawsuit to the Enterprise.
According to the lawsuit, the conflict began last fall when the bank planned to replace windows and shingles, which would have required workers to enter the Pie in the Sky property to make repairs and perform maintenance on the building, which would take approximately two days.
But Mr. Gura said that work previously done by the bank resulted in debris falling on customers and employees. One employee got splinters in her eye, he said, and almost had to be taken to the hospital.
He asked the bank to postpone the work until October, when the bakery is closed for renovations. He said he told the bank he would even pay for the work on its building.
Mr. Gura plans to add a basement and a story and a half to the existing building, to increase seating area and to make deliveries easier. The improvements will add much needed space, he said, but will leave the first-floor area of the restaurant essentially the same. “People really like that cozy feeling,” Mr. Gura said.
Overall, the improvements will streamline operations. “It will make a safer, cleaner and more enjoyable Pie in the Sky experience,” Mr. Gura said. Those improvements will add a walk-in freezer and refrigerator on the basement level, rather than 13 different refrigerators and freezers spread around the 1041-square-foot building.
Another dispute is related to parking on Railroad Avenue. The parking spaces owned by the bank are directly behind the bakery, and are sometimes used by Pie in the Sky customers. Mr. Gura said that the bank manager has entered his bakery on many occasions and yelled about customers using the parking spaces. “This is just so un-neighborly it’s beyond me,” Mr. Gura said.
In his 10 years of owning the bakery, Mr. Gura said he has never had this many problems with the next-door neighbor, but he hopes to resolve the dispute with the bank amicably.
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