One Step at A Time shoe store faces deadline and uncertain futureOne Step at a Time Kids in downtown Decatur. Photo provided to Decaturish
UPDATE: The owner, Kimberly Schoon, has rejected the DDA’s offer and said she intends to fight to keep her store open in Decatur. Here is our earlier story …
Decatur, GA — One Step at a Time Kids shoe store owner Kimberly Schoon has two choices.
She can walk away from her lease with the Downtown Development Authority of the city of Decatur for the space at 115 Clairemont Avenue and the DDDA will forgive $40,000 worth of rent she owes them.
Or, she can pay the $40,000 on April 1 and continue on in that space.
If she walks away, she has to decide by 5 p.m. today, March 31.
The choice isn’t easy, she said. Schoon, who moved her business to the space and opened in February 2020, said it’s been a tough year due to the pandemic, but she feels confident she’s on the cusp of a rebound. But it won’t happen quickly enough for her to raise the $40,000 needed to satisfy the DDA’s request.
“They want me gone so badly,” Schoon said. “If I just walk away, they will forgive any past debt. I don’t know how that’s in the best interest in the community. They’re willing to forgive the debt. If this was the only debt I owed because of the business it would be a damn good deal. This is an unheard of deal.”
But her debts are considerably more. She owes $84,000 to the Small Business Administration and a $34,000 loan to move her business to the spot owned by the DDA. The DDA leases the storefronts at 113 and 115 Clairemont from the property owner to ensure a good mix of businesses in the small historic strip in downtown Decatur. The space at 113 Clairemont houses the Visitor’s Center and the office of the Decatur Arts Alliance.
Schoon has had to declare bankruptcy and plans to move to Albuquerque, N.M. to be closer to family. Her plan is to transfer the business and its debts to Kayla Rohloff, the store’s current assistant manager.
“She could take over everything,” Schoon said. “The SBA has agreed to transfer my debt into her name. All we need is the DDDA to agree to this and issue a new lease. She can meet the obligations of the $6,700 a month rent.”
The DDDA, for its part, feels it has been patient and accommodating.
“One Step at a Time Kids has been a tenant of the DDDA since January 2020, relocating from Oakhurst to downtown to continue to grow their business,” the DDDA said in a press release. “In response to COVID-19, the DDDA has approved rent deferrals for the tenant, communicated about local and federal funding relief programs available to it, in addition to offering a lease at below-market rates. The DDDA attempted to offer advice, guidance and encouragement to One Step at a Time Kids throughout the last year, but the tenant chose not to utilize these resources. As a final gesture of goodwill, the DDDA recently offered to let this tenant and its owner walk away free-and-clear of past due rents upon mutual termination, which the tenant declined. Unfortunately, this tenant has not offered a reasonable plan or pathway forward to pay off the mounting debt and remain in this location.”
Schoon said the business is an asset to Decatur and she hopes the DDDA will find a way to let the business continue operating in the city.
“My store staying under Kayla’s ownership is best thing for Decatur,” Schoon said. “The store has rebounded and can pay full rent effective April 1.”
The DDDA said it would be sad to see the business go.
“The DDDA is always sad to see a business close in our city and do our best to offer multiple ways to help,” the press release from the DDDA said. “In this case, we feel as though we have done everything within our power to help this tenant and its owner remain viable, stay open, and respond to these challenging times.”
Writer Cathi Harris contributed to this story.
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