SOUTH SACRAMENTO -- It’s a true story of David versus Goliath.
A local South Sacramento coffee hut says they’re being forced out by a landlord who wants to bring in a Starbucks.
Tabitha Keefauver has been running the Java Express coffee hut at Fruitridge Road and Stockton Boulevard for the past five years. The business itself has been there for 20 years before that.
"Everybody knows us personally and we know all their drinks," Keefauver told FOX40. "And we know everything about them and they know everything about us."
But now Keefauver feels her landlord, Sustained Investments LLC out of Pleasanton, is trying to push her out.
"He’s trying to move me and put a Starbucks here," Keefauver said.
According to public records filed with the city, Keefauver’s building is going to be demolished and there are plans for a Starbucks in her same location.
"The landlord doesn’t simply seek to put competition in the area," said Keefauver’s attorney, Port Parker. "It’s my position they seek to put her out of business and that’s unacceptable."
Parker said the landlord promised to relocate Keefauver's business within the complex but he’s been vague about the details. Parker suspects the landlord is playing favorites and the corporation does not want the competition.
"It’s my understanding Starbucks has exclusivity rights in most areas and I’ve asked for the simple right to inspect the contract to see if there’s any contractual provisions that would potentially come into play if my client is operating in the same shopping center. And that transparency has not been provided," Parker explained.
At the same time, over the past couple of months, Keefauver says business has slowed in part because of her landlord.
"Since the pharmacy moved out I’ve lost about $100 a day in business," she said.
The Fruitridge Shopping Center is going through other changes as well. Many small businesses are closing or moving farther south in the complex, away from Java Express, as the old north building is going to be demolished and replaced by a CVS.
"The Ace Hardware had been there for 67 years and had to close down because of the new landlord," Keefauver said.
Plans submitted to the city also show a design for a new Java Express location. However, Keefauver fears she’ll be pushed out long before it’s ever built.
Still, she plans to fight to save her family business and has filed a lawsuit against her landlord, hoping she’ll get more of the community’s support.
"Well I’m not going to shut down because I have my regular customers and they’re all backing me," she said. "And, I mean, I have people that pass four Starbucks that live in Elk Grove that stop here in the morning."
A spokesperson from Starbucks gave the following statement in response:
Starbucks is always looking for great locations to better meet the needs of our customers and we are continually evaluating our store portfolio. We’re always looking at meeting our customers where they want us to be.
At this time, we remain focused on serving customers in Sacramento at our existing stores and have no store-opening plans to announce