WALNUT CREEK (KPIX 5) – An East Bay community is outraged that the Whole Foods grocery store chain could soon be forcing a popular Chinese restaurant and several other businesses to close down.
Angry customers say the new Whole Foods in Walnut Creek is about to cost them some of their favorite dining spots by blocking lease extensions for several family-run restaurants.
Some customers said they are planning a protest in front of the Whole Foods at the Encina Grande shopping center.
Whole Foods is the anchor tenant at the center. The grocery store opened there two years ago. The property management company is blaming Whole Foods for forcing out the smaller, long time restaurant.
Jade Garden has been serving up Chinese Food in the Walnut Creek shopping center for 31 years. It has a huge following.
“I’m here for my salt-and-pepper shrimp with garlic and onion. And it’s going to make my tongue slap my brains out. Can’t wait!” said loyal customer Tamara Sellers-Lee.
Some regulars have been coming to Jade Garden since the beginning.
When the strip mall told Jade Garden owner Ying Wang that the restaurant would have to move after the lease expires in February, she was in tears.
“I don’t know where to go. And we don’t have the money to open a brand new restaurant,” said Wang.
She and her husband, who works the restaurant’s chef, opened the business when they were in their 20s and raised two kids while working there.
Customers are rallying around the restaurant.
“It’s like they’re being bullied by someone bigger with more money,” said Concord resident Janet Mueller.
“The big guys are hitting on the little guys,” said loyal customer Arnold Manalang.
“It makes me feel angry, and very sad for the family,” said Sandra Ahart of Walnut Creek.
“It’s maddening. We should boycott Whole Foods,” said Sellers-Lee.
Mall representatives tells Ying that Whole Foods doesn’t want the space to be used for a restaurant. So both the restaurant and the UPS store next to it will have to go.
The mall has also decided not to renew the lease of Evie’s Hamburger once its lease expires next June. Rocco’s Ristorante Pizzeria is currently negotiating with the mall about a possible lease extension.
In the meantime, customers are rallying together to try to save Jade Garden and Evie’s.
“We likely be protesting outside of Whole Foods,” said Walnut Creek resident Janis Roberts.
“It’s another mom-and-pop going out of business,” Walnut Creek’s Sandra Ahart Resident.
KPIX 5 reached out to the Whole Foods and the property management company, but did not hear back from them.
The UPS store is planning to move across the street. The owner of Evie’s Hamburger tells me he’s not sure what to do at this time.
As for Jade Garden, the owners plan to look for another space.