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Easy Street Cafe Served Up Eviction from Red Hill Shopping Center

Popular eatery will be closed by the end of the month.

After nearly 28 years of business in the Red Hill Shopping Center, has received an eviction notice and is slated to close by the end of the month.

A note to customers has been posted on the door and on the company’s website in which the owners, Avi Bikszer and Robert Mitchell, give a detailed history of their business and the events leading up to the closure.

They said that help from the center’s owner Gene Arntz allowed the popular café to continue operating over the years, even when the eatery had fallen behind on rent.

According to the note, after Gene Arntz passed away in 2002, the café was able to maintain a payment schedule on the back rents, until construction for the remodel of Red Hill Shopping Center began.

“About a month into the remodeling with the noise, dirt, obstructed business entrance and lack of parking, our business was choked off,” the two-page letter continues.

The café’s owners said that in later discussions with the shopping center management, additional conditions of remodeling and updating the existing restaurant were placed upon them by one of the new owners, Tom Arntz of Arntz Builders

The new conditions prompted the café’s owners to consider taking out a personal loan to weather the economy and remodel but discussions with the management broke down. “My understanding was that he wanted us out,” it said in the letter.

The café owners acknowledge that they broke the terms of the lease and were eligible for eviction, but they question the timing that allowed them to rent for the ten months during the center’s remodel and a harsh economy.

The letter from business partners Bikszer and Mitchell closes with concern for the employees and with thanks to the customers.

"Again, thank you so much for all the years of patronage and sharing with me the joy of raising your kids and seeing your kids raising their kids. My heart is broken for my wonderful, great employees who have stuck by me for so many years."  

A call and email to the management of Red Hill Shopping Center for comment was not returned.

T McDermott April 23, 2012 at 08:59 PM
The remodel is a disaster as far as traffic and 'upscale' is not appropriate for RedHill. San Anselmo and Fairfax have always been working class folks. You know the 99% and we don't want Target or WalMart in RedHill but we are very happy with Mom and Pop good quality goods and service. I always loved knowing the staff and owners of stores I frequent, keeping the money local. 'Upscale' translates to chain deep pocket. High turnover, low pay jobs, empty store fronts. So I say 'GOOD LUCK' Arntz and Co. Between the terrible traffic design and the rude treatment I don't see me shopping there anymore.
John Neal April 23, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Apparently the new owners are bringing in a Chipotle franchise and this eviction is probably tied with that. Kicking out a locally owned business so they can bring in a out-or-town corporate business instead. That is not, I'm sure, what most San Anselmo residents want as I know many of us much prefer to support local businesses.
Debbie Downer April 23, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Boo progress!!! Let's all band together to support the status quo. Why can't everything just stay the same as I always imagined it was, poor us :(
Maryellen O'Connell April 23, 2012 at 11:07 PM
These landlords are morons
Eric Mitchell April 23, 2012 at 11:22 PM
This is an outrage. How about posting contact information for the Red Hill Mgmt (Artz Builders?) so we all can contact them?
Nancy Michels April 23, 2012 at 11:34 PM
I agree with Eric...it is an outrage what is happening to all of the small local businesses and even more so how they are being treated by the new management...how do we let them know...where are the petitions to sign?
Gina April 23, 2012 at 11:43 PM
This is very sad. my daughter and i have been going to easy street since she was very little.(she is off to college soon) We miss all the great little shops and folks working there that we all knew by name.Years ago i worked at AJ's at redhill when it was there, so many changes through the years, but it has really lost it's charm and friendliness now. I agree with all the comments here.
Easy Street fan April 24, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Perhaps some emails to Tom Arntz would be a good way to let him know how much the Easy Street cafe would be missed!! tom@arntzbuilders.com
McCoy April 24, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Thanks for email, just sent one off. Would be so sad to loose easy street.
Sue Ream April 24, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Another small town local business driven out by corporate greed. After stifling the revenue of this 28 year old business that welcomed everyone with good moderately priced food, the owners who are trying to make Red Hill into an "upscale" shopping mall, have served eviction notice. And we hear the national chain, Chipotle might be coming in. Shame on you Artnz Builders. This is a small town known for it's charm, not an LA style strip mall.
Ruth Hood April 24, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Very very sad. We will not recognize San Anselmo soon. Where is our town council on this?
Elizabeth Ryde April 24, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Mr Hamer... QUITE right! I wasn't thinking clearly. Boycott not the answer...(though I wonder about Safeway and CVS... if we use those vendors, there are other stores) Still, agree - media attention would be best bet. Also, write to Arntz directly... "e" tom@arntzbuilders.com. So is there anyone who has hook us up with the IJ or Chron or TV?
Linda Hyde April 25, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Locals, organize and help Easy Street find a better location! We can do this. Do this now, please!
CB April 25, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I don't understand the "remodel" of Red Hill at all. I don't see that anything has been accomplished, except to drive out the small businesses like Easy Street. If Chipotle comes in what happens to Burritoville? San Anselmo needs to adopt a "NO CHAIN" policy like Fairfax.
Common $ense April 25, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Please don't disparage Chipotle - they make great food - are a great example of a green company that gets it. I would love to seem them open a store in San Anselmo for the following reasons: 1) Doubt OBB uses naturally raised/anti-biotic free pork, chicken, and beef like Chipotle. 2) Doubt OBB offers it's employees free english continuation education - insurance - 401k, and bonuses. 3) Doubt OBB's willing to sustainably redesign their store to Platinum LEED certified standards like a recent Chipotle store was rated.
atomicthumbs April 25, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Doubt Chipotle's a small business instead of a chain, and makes some of the best damn burritos in Marin.
Common $ense April 25, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Doubt you have ever had a Chipotle burrito with naturally raised pork, chicken, or beef. Doubt you've tasted their superior guacamole - real quacamole not the thinned out spread that OBB offers. Don't doubt OBB makes great stuff - but Chipotle makes better burritos. Better tasting - better for you - better for our environment. That is the truth. Back to Easy Street - nobody is calling for it to be replaced by Applebee's. If Easy Street is 9 months behind in their rent - and none of the die hards supported them through the construction - that tells me they have bigger problems than the scape goat of an evil corporate monster out to get them. I get the small business vibe angle - which is why I
Common $ense April 25, 2012 at 09:37 PM
To be fair - the Red Hill management have been equal opportunity evictors. . . or rent raisers. . . or construction/business distruptors. Case in point - Round Table. Big chain. Bad atmosphere. Bad bathrooms. Bad pizza. So they walk away from their lease - and look who's coming in. A great new totally original local pizzeria - making authentic, tasy pizzas, with locally sourced produce etc. . . check it out http://pizzalina.blogspot.com/ and they have even worked with the Red Hill management to build a beautiful store front. . . It's not all bad people - change or progress is not always linear - but it is inevitable.
atomicthumbs April 25, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I've created a petition to tell Tom Arntz that we care about local businesses, even if he doesn't: http://www.change.org/petitions/save-the-easy-street-cafe Feel free to sign it and share it with people. The more signatures it gets, the more letters get sent to Arntz.
jenny April 26, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Overall, it seems that San Anselmo landlords don't get it. The remodel has been a blight for months with poor communication and zero community involvement (would a website or fb page been so hard?). I feel bad for the merchants (agree that a boycott wouldn't be appropriate) and annoyed by the management for their arrogance. And then I think... it's not like downtown is full up either! What SA needs is a business plan to attract and retain local (and chain?) merchants that serve the needs of the community AND that give back in meaningful ways.
Open Mind April 26, 2012 at 04:43 AM
I have no idea what transpired between the mall and Easy Street. I hope that each treated the other with respect. Having said that, personally I like the changes the mall is making. They are increasing the outdoor space where people (kids included) can hang out and, imo, the stores/restaurants there weren't so good and we could all benefit from an upgrade. According to Yelp Easy Street only had 3 1/2 stars (near the bottom of all the San Anselmo restaurants rated) and Round Table's pizza and dank space will not be missed. I also really like Swirl. I'm not sure what being in the 99% has to do with it (especially when we are in the top quartile in the country). And while I don't often shop at Safeway, it is a lower price alternative than Andronico's or the Goodlife. It's not turning into a strip mall, it always was a strip mall. Now it will be a slightly nicer strip mall than before. Personally I rather hang out down town.
Andrea Sumits April 26, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Easy Street has been a wonderful - and one of the few - family friendly eateries in the area. I hope Easy Street might consider another location - come to Fairfax! Thank you for your years of providing a child-friendly restaurant where parents could actually enjoy a meal out instead of being totally stressed about whether their kids are disturbing other patrons.
Hannah Doress April 26, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I think the management of Red Hill should think twice about evicting such a popular business which has been an anchor for Red Hill. Red Hill is heavily patronized by San Anselmo, Fairfax and San Geronimo Valley -- all communities which prize locally-owned, unique and family-friendly businesses. Bringing in the cookie cutter businesses is not likely to succeed in this area.
Gio April 27, 2012 at 05:56 AM
Sounds like you either work for Arntz Builders, are an Arntz or work for Chipotle. What ridiculous rubbish friend! "Small business vibe angle" - small businesses are the back-bone of our country buddy, not a "angle". How can you compare Chipotle to Burritoville? Chipotle is a multi-billion dollar corporation backed by investor McDonalds. Are you going to also list McDonalds' accomplishments as well? Perhaps them being a top buyer of factory-farmed beef? Where is your sustainability? Free English-continuation education? This is a reason to put a small-business under? You are delusion my friend, but the $ is your name says it all. Change or progress should not be linear, but be careful at the type of "progress" you stand behind since often times, as in this case, the "progress" you are behind is dropping large doses of crap on you that you eagerly consume.
Ralph Saunders May 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Our new neighbors: Chipotle under investigation for illegal hiring practices in three US cities. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-sec-joins-probe-of-chipotle-hiring-practices-20120522,0,7772968.story
Common $ense May 23, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Chipotle is being investigated for probably having workers with fake papers. Happens all the time because the laws don't ask HR folks to be INS agents and verify the authenticity of docs just to confirm that papers were presented. Put in context, anyone reading this who hasnt verified the papers of a potential house cleaner, handyman, nanny, or line cook at their favorite restaurant like OBB could be guilty of the same.
John Ferguson May 23, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Amen - the concept didn't change, and it's not a concept I'm fond of. Since I can't ride my bike with my kids there (pretty hard to cross the dreadful Drake) and it's not a place I want to hang out I almost never go there unless I need a prescription filled. Sad that they think increasing the corporate base will improve business, but that's what all developers think until people don't go. If you don't like it, don't go. There are plenty of better options throughout the Ross valley.
diane June 22, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Didn't that spot use to have a larger restaurant called Le Petite (sister to it's restaurant in Mill Valley in the mid 70's to early 80's when I ate there). They use to have the best soups on the planet. Pair it with one of their unique sandwiches or a salad and it was heaven. I could be wrong on the name though. The Mill Valley restaurant was on the street in back of the Safeway shopping center off the freeway.
Gwynaeth Atwood-Petti December 30, 2012 at 07:48 PM
It was called AJ's when I worked there in '86. I made all the soups for the salad bar and did all the other jobs in a restaurant(that was the formula Joe,the owner set up for all the employees). Arlene was his wife(she was the "A" & Joe was the "J" in AJ's. Sorry a local biz closed but I never ha a good meal at easy street in Redhill. Never consistent and weird combos of ingredients. Maybe it was good many years go and went downhill. We need a descent food choice in that location!
Sierra Salin February 24, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Hey folks, Pet Food Express has now opened up in place of Red Hill Pet Center. Here is a link to the new store. Ain't it grand that they are "giving" so much to our community, however, I will continue to support R.H. Pet Center, now in San Rafael, and will give as liitle as possible to the Arntz family, or any business which tries to take the place of the former ones which were so negatively impacted by the remodeling. http://sananselmofairfax.patch.com/events/pet-food-express-holds-marin-humane-society-fundraiser#comment_6476656

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