Fine Grind Faces Eviction, And Is Named Best Coffee Bar In Northern NJ

fine grind logoJJF Realty is attempting to evict The Fine Grind from its location in Piazza Farnese on Newark Pompton Turnpike. The beloved Little Falls coffee bar (a favorite of Barista Lisa Romeo) is known for hosting seminars, art shows, book clubs, and live music–including open mic nights. Several community leaders, including mayor Darlene Post, have spoken out in support of the mom and pop coffee shop.

singer at fine grind

The news comes at a time when The Fine Grind just won Best Coffee/Tea bar in North Jersey in the Annual Jersey Choice Restaurant Poll.

JJF Realty claims that shop owners Jon and Rhonda Mallek violated their lease by filing for bankruptcy and failing to pay rent in a timely matter.

The Mallek’s respond that they are not in default on their lease, and owe no money or late fees to JJF Realty. They posted this comment to the public on their Facebook page:

Although we have the right under our Lease to renew and stay here at the Piazza Farnese for another 5 years, our landlord, Dr. Farnese, is trying to deny us this right. We are unclear as to the landlord’s motivation for wanting us out. The reasons he is using are illegitimate and not reasons to evict a paying tenant. We believe that these reasons will not hold up in court and with the help of our lawyer, we are prepared to fight to stay at our current location in Little Falls where our roots are firmly planted.

We are saddened by the fact that the landlord would want to eliminate what we worked so hard to create. It has become the place for the community to gather and take part in all that we provide which goes well beyond great coffee and food. We have created a unique establishment that our customers have made part of their daily routine. We love this town and appreciate the support of our customers over the past 8 years. Our plan is to be here for many years to come. Hopefully our right to stay will be upheld in Court on August 8th.

Sincerely, Rhonda & Jon Mallek


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  1. It would be nice if more landlords had real community spirit in addition to being so obsessed with money. Would they prefer some soulless bank or soulless chain store over a wonderful, unique coffee place? Well, probably… 🙁

  2. Grr….so annoying. This was my *office* during Sandy when my Cedar Grove street lost power for 9 days. It’s a welcoming spot for local author events, musicians, and serves a vital community interest. Everyone feels at home here, all ages, whether meeting for social or business reasons.

  3. Not sure what the real story is here, but you can’t blame a landlord for kicking someone out who doesn’t pay the rent. Wish this article contained more from the landlord to be more balanced (not pointing a finger at the writer; I’m assuming the landlord didn’t offer any additional info.)

  4. I’m pretty much with Nellie on this one. While stories about this or that local business closing because of economic difficulties are in fact fairly common fodder for this site, they’re never terribly well-reported as to what actually went wrong.

    If in fact The Fine Grind filed for bankruptcy (which should be a fairly easy thing to check, cub reporters do this sort of thing all the time), then that’s a very serious issue for a landlord. No matter that the coffee shop “is what we worked so hard to create.”

    Perhaps, too, given how many items I recall here of local businesses shuttering due to financial reasons, maybe what all these bright=eyed and well-intentioned shopkeepers really need is a basic course in business management and economics. One does not have to be a disciple of Ayn Rand, after all, to acknowledge that rent is a very crucial thing to pay on a regular and timely basis, and no matter the “community” a business may say it’s trying to create in lieu of paying its bills.

  5. PS: I also note on the Fine Grind’s Facebook page that it’s in fact hosting a financial-investment seminar tonight. Sometimes these things write themselves, in other words.

  6. Yes, the Landlord should have “real community spirit” and let them stay without paying their bills. Makes sense to me.

  7. @ jak2577: I hear you. But the Malleks in their statement say they are “a paying tenant,” so I went by that. They seem like nice people who wouldn’t lie, and their track record shows they are very community-minded. If the landlord has a real issue (and is not, say, trying to kick out the Malleks to get much more rent from new tenants), then I might feel differently.

  8. @Nellie and @cathar: For what it’s worth, they’re filing for personal bankruptcy due to a job loss. The Fine Grind, as a company, is still a very successful and profitable business (which is how I think they will fight the landlord).

  9. Couldn’t “failure to pay rent in a timely manner” also mean rent is often or chronically late? They could still be all paid up, but if they aren’t paying on time, as per their contractual agreement, that’s a problem too.

  10. Just to be clear, The Fine Grind has never filed for bankruptcy, only the Malleks themselves filed for personal bankruptcy 3 years ago in order to save their house. Mr. Mallek had lost his job and was out of work for 2 years. The fact that the landlord is attempting to use this against them 3 years after the fact is nonsense, it is also illegal. Knowing the Malleks as I do after having been a customer of theirs for years, this has nothing to do with their ability to manage their finances, be they personal or business related. It has to do with recession and the loss of a very good job in the midst of building out their current location. The landlord has always been paid, and paid on time. In my opinion, this attempted eviction solely has to do with the landlord’s attempt to bring in a 3rd eating establishment a couple of years back which would have crippled the current tenants due to lack of parking. The Malleks opposed this and are now being attacked as a result.

  11. “The landlord has always been paid, and paid on time.” How can you be so sure about this as a friend and/or customer? My friends don’t have access to my financials.

  12. If you know the Malleks you would know that they are very forthcoming people and would not mislead me or anyone. Plus, it’s all documented which always helps if the burden of proof is ever laid upon them.

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