by Sam Levin
That was quick.
On Monday we reported that the Book House, a beloved local shop, could soon be homeless as developers and the city of Rock Hill explore the possibility of demolishing the historic property to make way for a large storage facility. The out-of-state developer Great Northern Development LLC and Rock Hill officials both told us that talks are very preliminary at this point.
Two days later owner Michelle Barron received her formal eviction notice.
"For the first time, I actually broke down crying," she tells Daily RFT. "The time I've been dreading...has happened."
The notice says that Barron and her shop have 90 days before the lease is officially terminated, which means she has to be out by the end of July.
She does not own the two-story Gothic Revival house that dates back to 1853, but the Book House has had a lease in the space for decades.
"We've got to get concentrated on moving," says Barron, who has gotten a lot of press attention this week since news broke of the possible demolition. "I'm trying to find a space."
The developers have a purchase agreement with the landlord, Rex Stahl, but have not yet submitted a formal application to the city and thus have not yet gotten any approvals for the possible "EZ Storage" project on the site off of Manchester Road.
Regardless, Stahl is ending Barron's lease.
"He is just exercising his rights under the lease," David Waltrip, an attorney representing Stahl, tells Daily RFT. (Stahl did not respond to a request for comment.)
Barron's attorney and the landlord agreed to the current lease and an addendum with the 90-day stipulation, Stahl notes.
Waltrip also says that Barron had an opportunity to purchase the house -- but backed out.
Continue for more on the future of the Book House and for more photos.
"We thought she was going to buy the building, and we were going to have to carve out that portion," Waltrip says, "but she was the one that withdrew."
Barron, however, says that she did everything in her power to try and purchase the house, but that the landlord only made offers that would be financially impossible.
"I tried for three years to buy this property," she says. "I could not get a bank loan to save my life.... I tried and I tried and I tried."
She adds, "It was obvious I wanted to keep the building, but they would not give me any way to do it."
She says that she will find another space for the Book House and is already looking at options in Webster Groves, Maplewood and Kirkwood.
But it won't be easy, she adds, saying she will have to "decimiate every dime I've got in savings to get us to move and even then, I'm not sure how we are going to pay three times the rent."
At this point, it seems clear that the historic house will be demolished despite campaigns petitions to save it, Barron says.
"I think if another developer wanted to do something with this property, they could step in and buy it right at this moment," she says. "Nobody has come up with any other solution."
Still, she says, "The Book House is not closing down."