Booth-owners pull merchandise out from Vendors Mall

File photo

Vendors stand outside the vendor's mall, waiting to retrieve their items or at least get in contact with the owner last week. 

As London's Vendors Mall opened its doors for the first time since March, shopping carts across the aisles were being stuffed with merchandise. These weren't customers buying up items they've been waiting months for, however — these were vendors, taking their inventory and moving out.

After two months of, reportedly, little-to-no contact with the owner of the Vendors Mall, Teresa Mullins, vendors say they've been left in the dark. Without any updates on the state of their inventories and the lack of ability to retrieve their inventories — among a handful of other complaints, vendors were ready to move out. The Sentinel-Echo called the phone number listed for the Vendors Mall which also matched the number vendors had for Mullins, but never was able to make contact with anyone.

"They're saying they're open to the public, and we're not even the ones that were coming in there to straighten and restock our booths," said vendor Debra Paul. "One of my friends said she got her stuff out and that it was so hot in there you could barely breathe. The food merchandise is going to go bad in that heat. [Mullins] still has not answered any calls, she will not talk to anybody, nobody got any checks or money that's back-owed, so everybody's trying to get out of there and they're looking for a new place to open owned by vendors."

The Vendors Mall opened back up at 11 a.m. Tuesday. According to Paul, only half of the vendors had been called to "straighten up their booths for reopening" Monday. Apparently, vendors were told to sign a 30-days notice. Vendors requesting to take their inventory Tuesday were told to sign that same notice.

"So I said 'we want to get our belongings out because we don't owe [Mullins] anything'," said vendor Mary Rush. "She owes us because we had to pay a month's rent upfront. We haven't seen her, heard from her, anything else. She's just using her people to speak on her behalf. She wanted us to sign a 30-day contract, and that's why I called the police. I told her we're not signing anything because that is our merchandise and we can take it out whenever we get ready because we do not owe her anything. She owes us."

London City Police arrived at the Vendors Mall Tuesday afternoon, taking statements from vendors and management. According to public information officer Megan Zawko, police checked in on the scene, but because this is a civil dispute, there isn't anything they can do about it at the moment.

Vendors were also curious about whether or not they'd be paid because the vendors' mall in Williamsburg had been paying its booth owners. That vendors' mall continued operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, operating through curbside service.

"They're not disclosing anything about the information as to whether they're planning on paying anybody or charging rent," another vendor told the Sentinel. "Some people have said we're responsible for the rent while we're closed. So, here's the deal. Because of the COVID-19 virus, I'm at risk. I have heart issues. I have health issues going on in my age -- I'm 68. The governor, my doctor, CDC, they've all said 'if you're over 65, stay home.' I'm not staying here. I'm leaving. I gave them a letter from my doctor. The big issue here is, they have not been providing us with any means of communicating with them, to let them have a notice that we were leaving -- social media, on the phone, anything."

"It should have been up to Teresa to call us and tell us we could get our stuff out if we wanted to because she didn't know how long she was going to be out," said Rush. "She just kind of disappeared."

Vendors told the Sentinel that the lack of information or access to their inventory was harmful to those whose livelihoods depend on the Vendors Mall.

Vendors Mall management present Tuesday afternoon had no comment on the situation.

dcombs@sentinel-echo.com

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