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Ben Franklin, Webster U: Please Go Back to the Bargaining Table

In an email to Ben Franklin and Webster University, Webster Groves resident Dave Buck asks the two to negotiate a new lease agreement in an effort to save the beloved local crafts store.

In an effort to save the from closing for good, a patron of the beloved craft store has asked the shop's owners and Webster University to go back to the bargaining table.

Dave Buck, a Webster Groves resident, and his family have shopped at the store for years. On Thursday he sent an email to Gary Hampel, Ben Franklin's owner, and to Greg Gunderson, Webster University's vice president and CFO, asking the two entities to try to negotiate a new lease agreement to save the craft store. 

The strip center in which Ben Franklin is housed is owned by Webster University. This week, Hampel told Patch . However, he added that the sour economy and the fact that his store sells "wants," not needed items, also contributed to the decision.

At Tuesday's meeting, . He also said the current lease was 40 percent below market rate, and that the university is working with a Realtor to find a new tenant with a focus on retail.

"Is it too late for Gary and Greg to sit down together — respectfully, cordially and collaboratively — to see if they can work out a new mutually beneficial and agreeable solution and deal that's a win-win-win for Webster University; that keeps Ben Franklin open for business; and keeps its many customers happy?" Buck wrote in the email.

In an interview Thursday, Hampel said he doesn't anticipate getting a call from Webster University to renegotiate the lease.

"It's a little late," he said. "But I'd listen if they did call."

Patch called Gunderson regarding Buck's idea. In an email response, a university spokesperson said, "Out of respect for the privacy for of our Old Orchard tenants, we keep details of our lease negotiations confidential." 

. Hampel said the store will remain open until mid-October or until all merchandise and fixtures are sold.

Joan Edleson September 07, 2012 at 10:20 PM
We would love to have the Ben Franklin store in Affton. Maybe where Hanneke's and the pet store were located at Gravois & Tesson Ferry Rds. or where the Auto Zone was and Fashion Bug is now, but will be closing that store soon. There is lots of space and parking ata both places and that is still close for their Webster Groves customers and maybe find a lot of new customers with the demographics along Gravois Road.
Dave Buck September 09, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Joan, thank you for your great thoughts and options where Ben Franklin could move. I have not talked with Ben Franklin owner, Gary Hampel, about your ideas, but I'm sure he is extremely touched and appreciative. The first and biggest issue is, if Ben Franklin in Webster Groves closes its doors, does Gary Hampel wish to open another store in another location. I have no clue what Gary's decision would be. Please stay tuned for updates in that regard. Thanks again for your input.
Dave Buck September 09, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Update from Dave Buck: Yesterday, September 8, Gary Hampel of Ben Franklin sent me an email. Greg Gunderson of Webster University both emailed and called Gary saying that he would be happy to meet or have lunch with Gary, but Greg stated that the offer on the table is non-negotiable, take it or leave it, with no interest, openness or room to discuss, negotiate or compromise. Greg is certainly establishing a reputation as the "Mr. Potter" of Webster Groves. I promised Gary I would not share the specifics of Greg's offer, but suffice to say that any fair and reasonable person would view it as an obscene and excessive increase in Gary's rent. What ever happened to giving a dedicated hard working man a chance and treating people fairly with kindness and compassion? Greg's actions suggest he only care about the cold, hard, almighty dollar. I hope this is not the case and, as such, I feel optimistic that Greg will sit down with Gary to seriously talk through and openly negotiate a mutually-beneficial deal that both sides can support and keep Ben Franklin in Webster Groves. Dave Buck
Dave Buck September 10, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Greg Gunderson of Webster University and Gary Hampel of Ben Franklin, Is it too much for loyal customers to request one last, fair chance to save Ben Franklin? There's nothing to lose, but everything to gain for our community, Ben Franklin and meding Webster University's reputation. Last Friday, Gary learned again that Greg's offer on the table is non-negotiable - take it or leave it, with absolutely no chance to negotiate or compromise. It would seem that the nail is in the coffin. There is no hope. Well, think again, Webster Groves. For Ben Franklin customers, it's not over 'til its over and until Ben Franklin closes, miracles can happen and we'll never stop trying. So Greg, we ask you: whatever happened to giving a dedicated hard working man a chance by treating him fairly with kindness and compassion - versus loving the hard, cold almighty dollar? Greg, I do not know you well but you seem like a good, decent guy that understands the importance of giving your fellow man an even break and a fair chance. Net, all we are requesting is that you meet, listen, negotiate and give Gary a fair chance to create a mutually beneficial offer that's a win-win-win for Webster Groves customers, Ben Franklin and Webster University, which can be a hero to our community. Greg, please give Gary and Ben Franklin a chance. Nothing may come of it. But you never know until you try. It's all we ask. Thank you. Dave Buck 952-0910
Mary.Cherry September 13, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Sad and outraged are two of my emerging emotions. Clearly it appears that Webster University has gotten too big and impersonal. It is a shame The University spokespeople don't care about the community in which they reside. Shaping the community with a positive impact. Instead seeing what they can do to rape it. Gobbling up the landscape. It's also a shame the City of Webster Groves doesn't have any clout with the University. This closing will take away from the city's charm. I would be lovely (albeit wonderful) to have Ben Franklin remain an active part in the Webster Community. Remaining to shaping lives and shaping memories.

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