Bonelle Pastry Shop (Google Maps)

Bonelle Pastry Shop, a 23-year-old mainstay of Ascan Avenue in Forest Hills, is facing eviction at the end of the year, just as a Dunkin' Donuts prepares to open right next door.

"In late September, I received a letter saying that [the landlord] regrets to inform that I would have to vacate by December 31st," said owner Rahita Raval. "I didn't want to confront him, because I knew that there would be something more than just saying 'I want to increase the rent.' So I hired a lawyer, and the lawyer basically says that he wants a change."

After that, Raval's lawyer spoke to the real estate broker for the whole block, Lee & Associates, who allegedly told her that Bonelle's space is up for rent, but "only for any other purposes besides food." Harris Bulow, Managing Director at Lee & Associates, denies ever having that conversation, and said that such a conversation would have occurred between the tenant and the management company.

Several calls to Isaac Rubin of Babad Management, Bonelle's landlord, have not yet been returned.

According to Raval, Babad's tenants enter into verbal lease agreements after ten years. "I took over someone's lease, and then when the ten years passed, he called me and he said 'Okay, you increase every year $100,' until another ten years pass, then he increases by $400.' And then by the end of the $400, he sends me this letter."

Raval noted that she was initially excited about a clean, well-maintained corporate franchise opening next door at the corner of Ascan Avenue and Austin Street, especially with the prospect of minimal rodent problems. She received the eviction notice "about 20 or 30 days" after hearing the news about Dunkin' Donuts moving in. She also said that the previous tenant in the Dunkin' Donuts space, New Town Grocery, was evicted in a similar manner, and their owner died the following month.

A local resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told us that Scott Campbell of Metro Franchising, which owns the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, invited a local community group to meet with him and the landlord on Saturday to discuss the contract and how it affects Bonelle. Campbell also told the resident about a clause in their contract that allows Bonelle to remain at their current location. This all happened after local residents threatened a boycott of the Dunkin' Donuts.

"I'm gonna go down to the bakery right now, and I'm gonna show the owner that there's nothing that we have. I love that bakery, and I'd love to be able to keep that bakery there, it has nothing to do with us," said Campbell when asked about the clause. "And it's very sad that anything would ever happen to that, because we love having entrepreneurs and people who establish the communities be there, and we want to become a part of this community."

For now, Raval has a petition posted in the store, and is actively looking for a new space. However, she says balancing a search for new real estate and baking for Thanksgiving and the holiday rush is very difficult. She maintains that her business, which operates in a 471 square foot space with minimal seating, does not pose a competitive threat to Dunkin' Donuts.

"If anything can come out of this, it's that there should be contracts for every business, and it should not be like a loophole like this," said Raval.