Claudia Dabbieri, owner of the Beyond Infinity specialty shop in the Pier Village Market on St. Simons Island, has a flexible exit plan.
“I was planning to move out next month, but now I think I’ll stick around until we get notice,” Dabbieri said.
Until this month, business owners operating out of the cluster of kiosks at the corner of Mallery Street and Beachview Drive knew only that they had until the end of the year to make arrangements. For what, they didn’t know.
The new owners of the market, Sandy Vacation LLC, have kept tight-lipped about their plans, according to several market vendors. Representatives of the corporation claimed at a meeting with business owners earlier this month that it did not have any concrete plans at all.
Most assume the new owner will tear down the kiosks, but no demolition permit had been filed with the county as of Friday.
Kiosk tenants first heard in September that the market property had been purchased. The writing was on the wall well before that, however. For a while tenants were assured they would be able to sign new leases but have been paying month to month for a while, requests for repairs went unaddressed and the old owner was generally uncommunicative leading up to the sale, according to multiple market business owners.
That property isn’t the only one Sandy Vacation has purchased recently. All lots on the block at the corner of Mallery and Beachview but one are listed as having been bought by the corporation within the last year.
According to county records, the last lot on the block not owned by Sandy Vacation — 314 Mallery St., which holds Dutchmans Designs and Simons Gallery, Gifts and Antiques — has not changed hands. But personnel at Dutchmans said they had been told the property was already purchased or soon would be
Requests for comment from Sandy Vacation have so far gone unanswered.
At the meeting this month, Dabbieri said they were given a little more time to make plans. They now have assurances that nothing will happen to the market until the end of May.
She doesn’t feel like she’s under the gun anymore, and is taking more time to work on her exit plan, Dabbieri said.
“I’m almost 74, I had hoped to finish out my working life here. Most people my age are retired, but I love what I do,” Dabbieri said. “I won’t quit working. I would rather drop dead.”
As many other kiosk vendors have stated, she doesn’t believe the new owner has done anything inherently wrong, but the way its been going about this, keeping tenants in the dark, has been hard on the business owners in the market.
Her business model is such that it would be difficult to relocate somewhere else on St. Simons Island. As such, she’s looking at all her options, including Jekyll Island, Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island and Savannah.
She visited St. Simons once and felt like she belonged. When her house in Alabama burned down, it seemed like as good a time as any to move.
“It’s not about me. Well, it’s a little bit about me, but having wanted to come here and be a part of this for so long, it’s not like anywhere in the country. And I’ve been everywhere else in the country,” Dabbieri said. “... Middle-income people can come to the pier and afford it, and I’m afraid that’s going to change.”
It should be noted that most kiosk owners who were open Thursday declined to comment about the situation on the record. Some said they wanted to run any comments by attorneys for Sandy Vacation for fear of being kicked out before the end-of-May deadline.
Two more said they were told not to speak to The News by representatives of Sandy Vacation, while others wanted to preserve the integrity of possible legal action.