Owners of Parcel Plus battle new post office They sue mall owners, fear their business in shopping center will suffer

July 08, 1998|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Dorothy and Stephen Caruso say it's not fair that the U.S. Postal Service was allowed to move into the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center recently -- especially since their Parcel Plus franchise has been in the mall for six years.

"This is so upsetting to me," Dorothy Caruso said. "It's like the world has come crashing down. This store is how we pay our rent!"

She continued: "This is the United States government going against a small business -- and we pay those people's salaries when we buy stamps! If they stay, it'll put us out of business."

Last month, the Carusos filed suit against their landlord, Lutherville-based Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust; they are also suing Stonehenge Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Mid-Atlantic and owners of the mall on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City.

To keep the post office from opening, the Carusos asked a Howard County Circuit Court judge to approve a temporary restraining order two days before it opened June 8. The judge denied the motion, and the post office opened as planned.

The suit continues and will most likely go to trial before the end of the year.

The Carusos would not disclose how the post office has affected Parcel Plus revenues. Attorneys representing the landlord and the Carusos did not return telephone calls yesterday.

According to court documents, the Carusos contend that their landlord violated terms of their five-year lease prohibiting competitors in the shopping center. They say the new post office would be in direct competition with their store, which offers mailing, packaging and shipping services.

The Carusos also claim that prospective buyers have turned down offers to buy the franchise after learning that a post office was moving into the mall.

According to documents filed by the landlord in the suit, the post office was able to lease space in the mall because the Carusos were late on several occasions with their rent payments -- a violation the landlord says allowed it to terminate the exclusivity clause.

Dorothy Caruso says her family will continue to fight their landlord, though the "government and the U.S. Post Office is going against me," she said. "We don't have the funds that they have, but we won't back down."

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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