Rahita Raval stepped down from her corporate gig at Philip Morris to open the Bonelle Pastry Shop in Forest Hills in 1992. It was a hit — the business has been turning out sticky buns, carrot cakes, hamantaschen, thumbprint cookies, and a lot more since then. But neighbors now say Raval is being evicted because a Dunkin’ Donuts is opening on the same property, and the chain presumably doesn’t want anything or anyone competing with its cookie-flavored holiday lattes and imitation Cronuts.
“We don’t even really sell coffee here,” says Raval, who explains that her management company forwarded an eviction notice in September, just a few weeks after she first heard about the incoming Dunkin’ Donuts. Gothamist reports Bonelle Pastry Shop is currently subject to a verbal lease. In any case, the process of ousting a tenant presumably out of deference to an incoming chain is not an uncommon practice: Earlier this year, in a similar situation, a newsstand operator in the Bronx was ordered to stop selling coffee, presumably to channel sales to the newly opened Starbucks in the same office complex. The coffee chain denied it had made any arrangements for preferential treatment, and the building’s management did not comment on the situation. It was only after workers circulated a petition on behalf of the vendor that he was allowed to resume pouring coffee.
Dunkin’ Donuts is rumored to include no-compete clauses in its leases, but Gothamist reports that Scott Campbell, the local franchisor, says his Forest Hills contract actually contains language specifically addressing Bonelle’s right to stay in its long-term home, which came about after neighbors threatened a boycott.
Of course, this sounds like a highly specific clause coming from such a large organization. The Center for an Urban Future, a nonprofit organization, tallied 515 NYC Dunkin’ Donuts locations in its annual “State of the Chains” report for 2013. “I’m gonna go down to the bakery right now, and I’m gonna show the owner that there’s nothing that we have. I love that bakery, and I’d love to be able to keep that bakery there, it has nothing to do with us,” Campbell told the site.
The property’s management told Raval its owner “wants a change,” and has reportedly started showing the space to prospective non-food tenants. Fans of Bonelle Pastry Shop, several of whom have been going there for more than two decades, have started a petition fighting its eviction. Save the hamantaschen!