The thing I love about doing this blog is that it is a place that I can say what is on my mind and give my opinion. While I have a journalism degree and understand the rules of journalism, I don’t have to follow any of those rules here. I’d like to get the facts (and spelling) right, but honestly I don’t have time to do much research, it takes enough precious time just to write down what I am thinking. I bring this up because I recently received an unpleasant comment from a relative of Tina Bishop, the Luxury Box owner, and Elaine even got a phone call from another relative.

Seems they were quite bent out of shape that I had brought up the subject of Pat Kroetch getting the boot and The Luxury Box taking over. I was not being critical in the piece but still I took out all mention of that part of the story to be nice. I guess being a nice guy bothers me because I’ve decided to take a closer look at the situation and talk about it openly and fairly.The truth is a lot of people are talking about it and most of them are not being as fair and open minded about it as I am.

The person who called Elaine said she was sick and tired of hearing the name Pat Kroetch and she just wished the whole thing would go away. She also said I should go down and get Tina’s side of the story. Well, it might take a while for this sentiment to go away and furthermore, I had already heard Tina’s side of the story from Tina herself.

I have a unique perspective on all this because Elaine and I went through a very similar ordeal when we were forced out of our building and had to shut down the business we had invested four years of our lives and all our money into. Debbie, who owns Goodtymes, told our landlord she would remodel the place and make it a country bar if he gave us the boot. Turns out she was bluffing, but she helped get rid of a competitor (I really only know Debbie as a rival nightclub owner and I can tell you that you are fortunate not to know that side of her). Ken Ripley also wanted our place and he was not bluffing. He lasted six months and lost more $225,000 according to him, $250,000 according to his wife.

The whole thing left a very bitter taste in our mouth, but the truth is we could have paid the higher rent and stayed. I thought the landlord wanted too much and the three owners who came and went since found out I knew what I was talking about. The point is that we were in the driver’s seat and we made the decision to pack up and leave. The landlord told us he would rather we stayed as long as we paid the higher rent.

In an article in the paper last August, Pat claimed that she was blindsided because the lease had always been taken care of by her husband Greg, who had died recently. But they had been going month to month for a year and half, and so it seems they were having problems making a decision to commit to a long-term lease even before Greg passed away. It must have been even harder for Pat afterward’s. But like us, Pat was in the driver’s seat and she could have signed a long-term lease.

Pat was recently widowed and at retirement age and I have heard that none of her children wanted to take over the business. It is understandable that she was not wanting to sign a long-term lease. In a perfect world she should have been allowed to go month to month for as long as she wanted. After all, her father opened the place  when U-City burst on the scene in 1965 and the Kroetch’s took the helm in 1984 and so that family had paid the rent at that location for more than forty years. Seems to me that is a situation where month to month is not a big deal.

Jim Magnuson, however, is a fairly new landlord of that property and has not been there for forty years. He is obviously a successful business man with a lot going on and  much on the line. In the article he states that he needed a long-term lease (and more money) and that Pat knew the rules of tenancy. In other words, he wasn’t in a frame of mind to worry about where Pat was at in life or the goodwill she and her father had established there.  University City is an investment property, a big investment property, and it needs to be run like a business. Magnusen was  following good bussines practice, who are we to judge that he should have been a nice guy and let Pat go month to month. We are not the ones with millions on the line, he is.  I am sure Magnusen would have preferred Pat stayed, but more than that he needed a secure tenant with a long-term lease. I guess that is just the way it is, I wouldn’t really know since I’ve never had to worry about managing a multi-million dollar property.

So Magnusen apparently put out the word that the facility was available and along comes Tina who is out looking for a place. Tina told me that she was told that Pat wanted to retire. She said that she was shocked when she finally talked to Pat and found out Pat did not want to retire. So Tina was mislead and drawn into what looked like the perfect opportunity before learning the truth. She told me Pat said that if she gave her $125,000 for the business she would leave with no hard feelings (there probably should have been some negotiation right there). Tina felt she could not afford the name and passed. The landlord wanted Tina signed to a ten-year lease more than he wanted Pat on a month to month. Tina told Pat that she would sign the lease if she did not. As far as I can tell, it was Pat’s call, Magnusen’s building and Tina’s dream.

Bear in mind that Tina was not acting alone, she had 3 other woman as business partners. This was a group decision. Should they have walked away?  That might have been a good idea. But on the other hand, Magnusen would have kept shopping the place until he found somebody else and so in that regard, if it weren’t Tina and company it would have been someone else. It is understandable that Tina felt this was too good to pass up, after all she had been looking and knew the market. There are no other places like it in the Valley, especially with that kind of location.

To be completely honest, I think it was a game that Pat was tired of playing and wanted out of. If she really felt her business was worth a lot then she should have signed the  lease and then sold the business. Businesses like that are hard sell. You have to find someone with enough money to buy it outright or carry a contract. Banks historically have shied away from financing restaurants and I am sure it would be a joke to try in this economic climate. When Percy Howell tried to sell the Golden Hour back around 1983, he carried a contract and got the whole place back within a few months. Pat and Greg came in after that and probably got easier terms. Had Tina bought the business from Pat, she could never have remodelled and the kitchen and bar  really needed remodelling. Besides, Tina already had a business and her own vision for expanding it.

I would hate to see Tina fail. Magnusen will win either way and Tina should not lose everything because he used her to get what is best for him. I think Tina and her partners were a little naive and did not understand the depth of sentiment this Valley has for the Golden Hour/Percy’s Americana. The main reason for this blog post is because I am amazed how often people mention , out of the blue, what a raw deal they think Pat got. Both of my parents have mentioned it,  Elaine was painting someone’s house the other day and they brought it up. Then there are people who are very bitter about it like most of the former employees and, I would guess, other people who are close to Pat. I say let’s get over it. Things happen in life. Move on. Forget and forgive. Pat and her family had a long and profitable run, now it is somebody else’s turn.

Is Magnusen a bad guy? He could have done things differently but it is his business and he has the right to run it the way he believes he should. Are Tina and her partners to be blamed and not supported? I guess if people want to be petty they can hold a grudge but I don’t think that is the right thing to do. Tina is a sweetheart. Some people may think she made an error in judgement, but I have done business with her at the Rock and have gotten to know her a little better at the new place and I know she is not at all a bad person. She is a very sincere and likeable person. The reality now is that she has laid thousands on the line and I think she is doing a lot of things right. We are lucky to have her establishment available to us.

Like everyone, I wish Pat’s long and admirable career hadn’t ended the way it did. But this is life and not the movies. People of the Valley need to embrace and support these people at the Luxury Box who have invested so much to give us a nice place to go and celebrate the events in our lives. I hope people will follow Pat’s lead when she said at the end of the article,  “I do think things happen for the best reason. I don’t wish bad things for anybody.” So get over it and get in there, the Valley will be a lesser place if another decent woman loses her dream.

Comments
  1. Mark Klassen says:

    Thanks Craig and Elaine for the fine blog. Your knowledge and time spent researching the facts show that you care about the details. Did you know that Greg passed away the same day that their house burned in the Dishman Hills fire? Life was cruel to such a wonderful couple that were a living example to the commandment of love thy neighbor.

    • I did not know that Mark. What a hard time for Pat. Those of us who are lucky to have marriages that we know won’t end until one or the other passes away live everyday with a bittersweet sadness, knowing that one day one of us will be left behind. But to have that day come on the same day such a cruel blow as her house burning down is almost incomprehensible.
      Thanks for reading and appreciating the blog.

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