Holding Her Ground

They huffed and puffed, but developers could not blow down Edith Younger-Huff's business

the entrepreneur. Rather than move Younger-Huff’s salon to another location (an old carpet store that had no bathroom or heat and would require about $200,000 in reconstruction), they eventually decided it made better business sense to rebuild A Cut Above at its original location.

Things were finally moving in Younger-Huff’s favor, but she still needed to work during the year while the new building was being built. “Within two weeks, we had a nice settlement,” says Younger-Huff. The agreement (she cannot disclose the amount) included storage for A Cut Above’s new furniture and equipment, and temporary relocation to an old salon near the local train station. The temporary salon was completely outfitted with curling stations, mirrors, and the rest of the hair salon–at the developer’s expense. The agreement also arranged for Younger-Huff to continue paying the same rent she paid at the original location, which was about 10% less a month than the market rent at the new, temporary space.

The developer absorbed all moving expenses, and Younger-Huff didn’t miss a beat. Despite this victory, business was not the same. “We moved the end of July, and in August 1997, our revenues for the month were $13,500,” says Younger-Huff, whose August 1996 revenues were $20,000.

To retain customers, Younger-Huff mailed postcards to the 10,000 clients in her computerized database, notifying them of the move. She also paid the phone company $40 each month to maintain her old phone number and forward calls to the new location.

BACK ON THE BLOCK
In 1998, A Cut Above moved into the corporate plaza, but revenues have not bounced back to the glory days of $20,000 per month, says Younger-Huff. “When we moved back, it was still the pits,” she says. “We are now on the back of the building, but the selling point to that is that we have a parking lot.” By the time Younger-Huff was offered a space in the new plaza, there were no spaces available in the front.

A total of 17 businesses were relocated to make way for the corporate plaza, which, in addition to UMDNJ, houses three restaurants, a GNC store, and, because of smart dealing, A Cut Above salon. Younger-Huff is the only one of the original businesses to return to the now-upscale corner.

Fast-forward to 2004. It has been nearly six years and the shop’s revenues are still sluggish (averaging $15,000 per month), but Younger-Huff embraces the experience. “It wasn’t a bad thing. I learned a lot about negotiating, about business, and about looking after myself. And at the end of the day, I’m still in business.”

HARD-LEARNED LESSONS
Edith Younger-Huff learned her lessons about redevelopment firsthand, and to some extent, she learned those lessons the hard way. Because she was a renter rather than a property owner, some of her options were limited in her fight to keep her business. But whether you rent or own your business’ location, you still have some leeway in relocation negotiations.

Before developers can condemn a property, they must have consent from a governing body, such as

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