The tenant of Westminster Antique Mall owed nearly $58,000 in rent and faced five failure to pay rent cases in less than two years, court records show, before the property owner evicted them last month.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office served the eviction on Westminster Antique Mall LLC on Sept. 22 for failing to pay rent, according to an evictions deputy who identified himself as Cpl. Calder. An Aug. 5 forbearance agreement signed by the landlord, Hot Air LLLP, names the guarantors for the tenant, Westminster Antique Mall LLC, as Charles R. Green and Sharon Green. The agreement, signed by Sharon Green, states the tenant and guarantors owed $57,983.81 in monthly base rent and “certain additional rent” through Aug. 31.
Multiple attempts to reach Sharon Green via phone and Facebook were not answered. Charles Green could not be reached.
Joseph N. Schaller, legal counsel to the property owner’s management group, said the mall was run successfully for about 23 years, until a new tenant, the Greens, took over in 2017.
“Fairly soon thereafter, the landlord began to experience significant and chronic lease payment defaults that lead (sic) to numerous rent court judgments for possession in favor of the landlord,” Schaller wrote in an email. Ultimately, the landlord had no choice but to terminate the tenant’s right to operate the premises, he said.
The property owner’s management group, Obrecht Properties LLC, filed failure to pay rent cases against the antique mall March 22, 2019; June 24, 2019; Nov. 19, 2019; Feb. 24, 2020; and March 27, 2020, online court records show.
“Not only is losing and replacing a tenant a very expensive proposition for a landlord, but the principals of the landlord consider themselves conscientious citizens of the Westminster business community and are sorry to see the antique mall gone from this location,” Schaller wrote.
The property owner coordinated with antiques vendors so they could remove their personal property and wares, according to Schaller.
Blindsided by closing
Two of the vendors affected, Tim Doyle and Esther Doyle Read, sold used books at the Westminster Antique Mall for 10 years. Their business, Bayside Books of Maryland, is more than a hobby, but less than a job, the couple said. Read called the revenue from the antique mall spot their “go see Paris money."
Their arrangement with Green was not an uncommon way of doing business in antiques. They paid her rent based on the amount of space their books occupied, then Green would sell their wares and cut them checks, Read and Doyle said.
When Green took over for the previous tenants, Henry and Judy Dodrer, Doyle and Read expected her to do well. Green was their friend of several years and an experienced antiques dealer.
Then about 10 months after Green took over, one of the checks she issued to Doyle and Read bounced. They went to Green for an explanation. She told them she had to shut a bank account down because someone got her information and stole money from her, and alleged certain dealers were ripping her off, Read said.
“At the time, we believed her," Read said.
The rent Read and Doyle owed that month happened to be near equal to what Green owed the couple for selling their books, so they called it square. Doyle recalled writing Green a check for about $15 to settle the difference.
“We accepted what she said and it wasn’t until things started falling apart that I began to question…” Read said, trailing off.
“Everything,” Doyle said, finishing her thought.
People who worked under the previous tenant stayed on to help Green, but then those employees went away, Read said. A friend and fellow antiques vendor told them one of their checks from Green bounced, too.
Doyle and Read were blindsided when they learned the antique mall was closing much sooner than they had expected.
Doyle said he came to the mall to drop off books Aug. 30. Walking past Green at the register, he said hello. Doyle arrived to his spot and began tidying. Another vendor approached to ask why he wasn’t packing. The vendor told Doyle they had to be out of the mall by close of business the next day — that it was closing. Doyle had no idea. He thought the business would be open until the end of 2020. In fact, he’d planned to write Green a rent check.
Doyle was floored. He’d just walked past Green, carrying a load of books, and she didn’t mention it.
He returned to the register and confronted Green. She admitted then the business was closing, he said.
“She was real curt. She clearly didn’t want to talk,” Doyle said.
He estimated that at the time of the closure there were about 100 vendors.
Read acknowledged she and her husband came out of the situation fairly well compared to others, though they scrambled to remove their wares with 25 hours' notice. Read and Doyle have full-time jobs, so they don’t depend on their books for income, but they can’t say the same for other former vendors of the antique mall.
A pandemic lifeline
Former vendor Will Pownell said his booths at the antique mall helped him through financially troubling times, especially as of late, during the coronavirus pandemic, when working as a handyman isn’t ideal.
At the antique mall, Pownell sold a mix of items, specializing in vintage industrial goods, such as tools. “It saved my proverbial bacon a couple of times,” he said.
Like Doyle and Read, Pownell experienced the antique mall under the leadership of the Dodrers and then of Green. He was a vendor there for about five years. About 10 months after Green took the helm, Pownell noticed his checks started coming late, ranging from three days to a month late. Checks were supposed to be distributed biweekly, but he said Green always had an “excuse.” Sometimes she blamed it on the bank, saying there was a clerical error, he said.
“At first, it seemed plausible,” Pownell said. After all, Green was someone he called a friend.
He estimates he received more checks late than on time from Green.
Pownell was out of town this summer when he started getting messages from other vendors telling him the antique mall was closing, but he didn’t hear from Green. He drove home from the beach Aug. 30 and frantically tried to move his wares before the Aug. 31 closure. Thankfully, he said, the landlord gave him some leeway to clean out.
“It was a stressful and hectic time," Pownell said.
Now, he’s trying to sell some of his antiques online. Reflecting on the experience, Pownell wishes Green would have communicated with the vendors.
“I don’t want to see her do this to anybody else," he said.
He said no one seemed to know what was going on at the time, that vendors were telling each other about the closure. Pownell suspects many of them would have tried to work with Green if she told them she was struggling financially, but he doesn’t know why she was behind on rent.
Over a month after moving out, Read is still angry with Green.
“It’s a tragedy, people’s lives and dreams ruined,” Read said. “Sharon destroyed her own dream in the process. I’m angry at her, but I do feel a little bit of sorrow for her, too.”
Read and Doyle hope they can find a new place in Carroll County to sell books.