The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 4, 2013

Josephine’s Ristorante forced to close doors

Landlord has terminated their rental agreement

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Many tears have been shed since Thomas and Caroline Scardina learned their landlord was terminating their rental agreement and they would be forced to close Josephine’s Ristorante by the end of the month.

Josephine’s will close its doors Oct. 13 after nearly six years.

The Scardinas were shocked when they received a registered letter, Saturday, from their landlord’s attorney, stating their landlord was “exercising his right” to terminate their rental agreement and they had until midnight on Oct. 31 to vacate the building.

“We always paid our rent on time,” Thomas Scardina said. “We never missed a payment.”

Scardina said they never had much contact with their landlord, they just paid their rent every month. He said they probably hadn’t talked to him in about eight months.

Back in July, the Scardinas were approached by Steve and Kathy Magda, former owners of the Dorset Restaurant. The Magdas expressed an interest in purchasing Josephine’s. The Scardinas met with them and gave them a tour of the restaurant, and showed them the kitchen and the equipment they had available.

Scardina said in the course of the meeting, the Magdas specifically inquired about their landlord and the lease.

“We explained that we were month-to-month because up to that point, (our landlord) had not drawn up or presented a new lease to us,” Scardina said.

Shortly after their meeting, the Scardinas received an e-mail from the Magdas, which stated they were not interested in purchasing the restaurant because they had their own equipment from the closure of their restaurant, Scardina said.

“Unbeknownst to us, Kathy and Steve went directly to (our landlord) to ask for a lease on this building so they could move in and open their restaurant,” Scardina said. “We had no knowledge he was even in conversation with the Magdas until we received the registered letter informing us we had 30 days to get out.”

The Magdas declined to comment on the situation.

After receiving the letter, the Scardinas approached their landlord, suggesting that they should have been given the option to sign a lease with him since they have been good tenants for nearly six years and always paid their rent on time.

The Scardinas were told it was too late and a lease was already in place with the Magdas, Scardina said.

Although they knew somewhere down the road they would sell Josephine’s, the Scardinas had no intention of going anywhere for a while.

“We were in no hurry,” Scardina said. “We were not in financial trouble and we wanted to find the right buyer. We knew that might take years.”

The Scardinas opened Josephine’s as a ministry to provide jobs for people in the community as well as to provide an uplifting place in the community for people to eat.

“I think we’ve been successful in that,” he said.

Scardina said from the very beginning, it has always been about their employees.

Josephine’s employs 18 people, who found out Monday they will all be left without a job.

“There’s been a lot of crying around here,” said Maddie Becker.

Becker has been working at Josephine’s for the past five years and said she is not concerned about finding another job, she is upset about losing this one.

“We’re like family here,” she said. “We love our bosses. How many people can truly say that?”

The Scardinas are hoping the community will rally around them in helping to find jobs for their employees.

“We have some of the best employees,” Scardina said. “Nothing would bless us more than to know our 18 employees had somewhere to go on the 14th.”  

“Even though this door may be closing for them, we’re hoping God opens other opportunities for them,” he said.

Walter Williams, who has also worked at Josephine’s almost since they opened, said it is an unfortunate situation and he is going to miss working for the Scardinas.

“This place was just what I needed,” he said.

Williams was working at Ruby Tuesday’s when it closed and a friend told him to apply at Josephine’s.

“I’m going to miss the employees and the owners,” he said. “We’re like a family here.”

Scardina said he and his wife want to thank the community for supporting them over the years.

“We’ve been able to make friendships with a lot of customers,” he said. “Hopefully that continues.”