It has been a mainstay in the Franklin Square community since 1986, but the popular family-owned Tulip Caterers now faces eviction from outsiders who want to replace it with a 7-Eleven. However, one glaring issue with replacing Tulip Caterers with another 7-Eleven is that it would be the fourth of its kind within a 2-mile radius in the surrounding area.
“It’s been ongoing for two years,” said Franklin Square native Vinny Giordano, who owns Tulip Caterers, about the possible eviction. “It just kept getting postponed until finally it reached no other road. We had to take it to the [town’s] Board of Appeals and that’s where we’re at.”
According to representatives from Giordano’s landlord, Giordano, with a discounted rent, had two years to find a new location. However, Giordano said he plans to fight the eviction and has the support of the community behind him.
“We have the support of the community and I have more than 1,250 signatures,” said Giordano. “I have an attorney, and I [plan on being] just me. Out of all the years that I’ve been here, I’ve been involved with some of the organizations and community unity so that’s basically where we’re at.”
Besides the oversaturation of 7-Elevens in the area, traffic is another concern from local community members on why having another 7-Eleven in the village is a bad idea. According to a recent traffic survey that was performed around the area, due to heavy traffic from 7 to 9 a.m., there’s a bottleneck going east on Tulip Avenue and turning left onto New Hyde Park Road, which is the corner of where Tulip Caterers is located. The traffic study also concluded that it can take up to six minutes for a single vehicle to turn and clear the intersection. Tulip Avenue only has one eastbound lane and one westbound lane; New Hyde Park Road only has one northbound lane and one southbound lane.
Last week, Giordano, along with his attorney James Toner and members of the community, went to the Nathan L. Bennet Pavilion at Hempstead Town Hall in Hempstead to fight the eviction at the town’s Board of Appeals. Also on hand at the hearing was an attorney who represented 7-Eleven, along with an array of experts offering testimony vouching for the benefits of building the franchise at the Tulip Caterers location.
“I came in very late to the case and what I did really was examine the legal issues in the case,” said Toner, whose law firm is based in Mineola. Toner is a criminal lawyer, but also was the Village of Manorhaven’s village attorney and served on the board of zoning appeals for the villages of Sea Cliff and Manorhaven. “Some of the issues that were glaring were that their traffic study was based on three-year-old data. The traffic study was done in 2019, but it was based on traffic and parking studies that were conducted in 2016. I saw that as a glaring weakness in their case.”
7-Eleven brought in experts in architecture, engineering, real estate and traffic patterns to make a case for the approval needed to move forward with the construction plans. Most of 7-Eleven’s argument came from the idea that its services and occupation is not much different from that of the deli’s, except that it is open 24 hours.
Toner felt that Giordano’s deli was mischaracterized as a convenience store by 7-Eleven because his business doesn’t require a special use permit the way a 1,300-square-foot convenience store would.
“Their real estate professional that testified only did a real estate evaluation study of a property on Jericho Turnpike, which was a four-lane [area] in Westbury,” said Toner. “His data was more than 14 years old. He also did a study in Huntington and his data was from 2004 and 2006, so his data was old. There was a 7-Eleven located at 310 Hempstead Tpke. in Franklin Square and he neglected to do any type of evaluation of the property. It was aged, it was geographically remote and we brought that up to the board.”
When the issue of truck deliveries was brought up, 7-Eleven representatives testified that deliveries routinely take no more than five to 10 minutes and are arranged so that they are not carried out during busy times of day. As far as parking concerns go, representatives of 7-Eleven outlined a plan, in cooperation with the landlord, to move the lot’s dumpsters and garbage pick-up location to open more parking spaces. They also mentioned that the property was originally a 7-Eleven back in the 1960s.
Giordano and his lawyer further pressed on the pre-existing concerns, bringing in pictures of the site and the influx of traffic that goes through during the morning hours, including shots of the crowded parking lot. What Giordano lacked in expert testimony was made up for in the show of public support he received, which certainly made its presence known at the hearing. Dozens of people lined up to sign in and check off that they were against the building of another 7-Eleven in the area.
The community’s commitment to saving Tulip Caterers was apparent, as many sat through a public hearing that lasted a number of hours, waiting for their chance to make public comment with their written statements and homemade signs in hand.
At one point during the lengthy hearing, Chairman of the Board of Appeals David P. Weiss almost jokingly asked 7-Eleven representatives if corporate “had a limit on how high the saturation level for 7-Elevens could be for one area.”
The crowd attending the hearing immediately broke out into applause upon hearing Weiss’ comment.
“We don’t need another 7-Eleven,” yelled one supporter amid the cheers. “We should be supporting a local business run by local residents.”
The Board of Appeals will take into account testimony and evidence presented by both Giordano and 7-Eleven, as well as the comments made by residents and make a decision regarding the variances according to their decision calendar. The approval or disapproval of these variances by the board will be crucial in whether Tulip Caterers will have a chance at being saved or replaced by the convenience chain.
“We hope that it will be in our favor and that they agree with us,” said Toner. “The losing side will have 30 days to bring up what’s called an Article 78 and challenge the determination of the board. It goes to the Supreme Court now and this litigation will go on for some time. The job of the Supreme Court is not to make an independent determination on the hearing. Their job is to merely find a rational basis and decision of the board. I think what I focused on the in the hearing and what I knew to be some of the Article 78 issues I believe that there will be a rational basis for turning this down.”
Giordano said that he hopes to be in his current location for many years to come if he does win his case.
“I’m hoping that it will see itself for at least a few more years,” said Giordano, who doesn’t have another location in mind if he loses. “If not, even longer. We’re hoping that maybe they’ll sell me the property. If they [the landlord] lose, then my opinion is if you don’t have a blockbuster deal, why would you want to be here anymore? You might as well sell the property and make a profit, this is the landlord now, and leave me be. Let me finish my journey. I want to do another 10 years, do 43 years [total] in this place and retire.”
With all the support that he has received over the past couple of weeks, Giordano said that in people there’s power.
“The majority usually rules and lasts,” said Giordano. “This business was started in 1986 with my mom, dad and I. Since then, it’s been a family-owned business. They’re not here with me today, but it’s still family-owned. We’re devoted and dedicated. My wife and I are hardworking people with fresh food daily and we’re open 365 days a year. We’re part of the community, which is a big puzzle of life. We’re one of the food parts of the puzzle for people to come here.”
“Every sports team that comes through that door is given sponsors,” said Toner. “When children are born, [Tulip] is catering their homes, when people bury their loved ones, he’s the caterer. He is part of the community and he’s such a great guy. It’s not an easy business and it’s very hard on his family, but he works really hard.”
As of press time, 7-Eleven did not respond to comment from the New Hyde Park Illustrated News.
Nearby residents in Floral Park and New Hyde Park expressed their thoughts about the possible eviction of Tulip Caterers.
We do not need another 7-Eleven. We support family-owned mom and pop businesses.
—Amanda Borgersen Lawrence
I have known Vinny and his family for a lifetime. I still remember the day it opened like it was yesterday. It is not fair, to say the least, that this Italian family business can be replaced with another 7-Eleven. Tulip Caterers is one of the warmest, caring delis I know. Wouldn’t you rather go to a place that welcomes you like an old friend, too, rather than going to a processed food chain?
—Liz La Russo-Carroll
I think it’s always better to have small businesses in town rather than a chain. However, if the [landlord] of Tulip Caterers think that selling to 7-Eleven is the right decision for them, I support their right to do that.
I’d like to see Tulip Caterers stay, but let’s face it, 7-Eleven is willing to pay more. This is what makes the world go round.
7-Eleven cannot give personal service and does not provide real food as Tulip Catering does. There are so many 7-Eleven’s that are within a two-mile’s radius. Why do we need more of franchise establishments? We need to preserve mom and pop places that understand the value of family.
—Additional reporting by Taryn Schofield