Amidst ongoing argument between downtown Bonner businesses, one plans to close
A downtown Bonner Springs business is looking for a new location after arguments between the owner and the owner of a neighboring downtown business came to a head.
Tracy Smith, owner of Perky’s Café, 129 Oak St., said he shortened its hours to a 1 p.m. closing time so he can begin looking for a new location because he has been served an eviction notice, requiring him to leave by this weekend. He blames the notice on his neighbor in the same building, Terry Mille, owner of Cowtown Cheesecake Café and Bakery, who he says he had a physical altercation with in mid-October.
Smith went so far as to get a restraining order from Mille, requiring him to stay 100 yards away from Smith, and shortly after it was granted by a judge, Smith was served with a notice of eviction from the building’s landlord.
“This is clearly a case of ‘bullying’ and the people of Bonner Springs needs to know the truth about this matter,” said Smith, who explained his side of the situation in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
But Mille said while there have been ongoing disagreements between the two businesses, he is not responsible for the eviction notice.
Smith says things started out on a bad note between the owners as soon as he opened in late August. He said Mille began insulting Perky’s via social media, and during Tiblow Days, Mille was on the sidewalk using a megaphone, telling customers not to go to Perky’s because the café used canned products.
Mille said the bad blood started even before Perky’s opening, when Smith was looking for a space for his business and wanted Cowtown’s current space. Mille said Smith suggested that Cowtown move to the former Bonner Springs Pizza Company space that Perky’s now occupies, but Mille didn’t want to move.
Mille admits he does view Perky’s negatively, but he said that is because he thought Smith has been actively copying his business.
“You ask anybody who has been following it; I’ve had customers bring it to my attention,” Mille said. “They’re trying to hurt my business by undermining my prices and doing the same (food specials).”
Mille said he offers a Waffle-icious breakfast sandwich that he hasn’t seen anywhere else in the metropolitan area until Perky’s began offering something similar. Mille said another example was when Perky’s began offering a grilled cheese and tomato soup special soon after he began offering a three-cheese Panini and tomato bisque special.
Smith said he and his employees have been ignoring the comment about copying, trying not to contribute to any bad feelings.
“This really makes no sense as McDonald’s and Burger King are across K-7 from each other, they both serve cheeseburgers while being successful,” Smith noted in a Facebook post on his business’s page last week.
Smith said the morning of Oct. 14, Mille entered Perky’s and initiated an argument.
“He ripped my pocket on my shirt and punched me in the chest,” Smith said.
Smith then called the police. Mille says he was given a ticket for battery and disorderly conduct.
Mille said he decided to confront Smith face to face that morning because Mille’s wife had become stressed by what she perceived as Smith’s efforts to copy and steal Cowtown’s business.
“So I came in that morning, and their door was wide open, and I yelled at Tracy, ‘You have to stop copying me; it needs to stop right now, you need to do your own thing and you’ll be fine,’ and he yells back, ‘We’re not copying you,” Mille said.
Mille said he then entered the business, and Smith provoked him. Mille admits to “thumping” Smith on the chest with the knuckle of his forefinger, but says he did so only after Smith started the physical altercation by bumping his chest against Mille’s.
“I was in the wrong, thumping him on the chest, even though he bumped me first, but I’m an emotional person,” Mille said.
While Smith said Mille pushed their landlord, Pete Depetre, into issuing the eviction, Mille said that is not the case. Mille, who said he has a six-year lease, said he made Depetre aware of the restraining order but did not force the eviction.
Smith said the eviction notice doesn’t list causes for the eviction, but when Depetre delivered the eviction, he cited the restraining order as the reason.
Depetre did not respond to The Chieftain’s request for comment. Smith said he didn’t have a formal lease with Depetre, but they had discussed a two-year lease. He said he has heard rumors that the eviction was caused by a lack of proof of insurance and an exhaust hood in his kitchen, which is in violation of city code. However, Smith said he does have insurance and just had a clean inspection from the city.
“It’s just crazy that another business should have to leave downtown Bonner when we’re trying to make it grow so much,” Smith said.
Mille also expressed sorrow that the situation would draw negative attention to the downtown area, which already was hit with the closure of Thriftway in early October. Both men said they wished the other had been willing to work together on a solution but felt it was too late now.
Smith said he didn’t think he would be able to find an alternate location in Bonner Springs because there are no available spaces appropriate for a small café.
“We’re not going to quit, that’s for sure,” he said. “I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”