True Vine sets up GoFundMe for relocation

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Photo by Brandon Weigel

Amidst a rent dispute, the True Vine Record Shop has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for relocation costs and a rent deposit on a new space.

“after this is accomplished we will throw a big party & hopefully carry on for many years,” owner Jason Willett wrote in the fundraiser description [all sic]. “we don’t know how long we can stay in our current location so as far as raising this money goes, the sooner the better.”

Willett is seeking to raise $5,000.

The campaign comes after Willett publicly accused Golden West Cafe, a restaurant around the corner from his shop, of forcing him out of his Hickory Avenue space.

Golden West stepped in and bought up True Vine’s lease, which had proven too costly for the record store, with the intent of collaborating on a new space that mixed a bar and performance space with records for sale. With the backing of a new investor, as Baltimore Fishbowl reported in November, the restaurant has been looking to expand its current footprint, open a new vegan bakery in the neighborhood and possibly set up other Golden West locations in the region.

Under a sub-lease agreement with Philly’s Best, a carryout at the corner of Hickory Avenue and W. 36th Street, Willett saw his rent increase from $800 a month to $1,400 a month, an amount that proved to be a hardship. Several fundraisers were held to support the record shop during its financial struggles, which also included lagging sales.

Blending spaces could help the True Vine, and Willett even told Baltimore Fishbowl he thought combining with Golden West could save his business. But Willett said the plans suddenly changed, and records would only be displayed on wall shelves; he was under the impression the main room of his shop would pretty much remain the same.

“That’s not a record store; that’s a cafe decorated with records,” he said of the plans.

After Willett said he wanted to keep the True Vine as it is and asked for a rent decrease, the arrangement fell apart.

Golden West proprietor Samantha Claassen said she was saddened by the public back-and-forth and wanted to help Willett “liquidate back stock and move, rent free.”

“I believe in Jason, his record store and this community,” she wrote in an email to Baltimore Fishbowl. “I wish him the best moving forward and I will help him as much as I am able.”

As of press time, the largest donation, of $250, to the True Vine’s campaign comes from Vyomeshchandra Patel, the man close to purchasing an 80 percent stake in Golden West. Patel confirmed in an email that the donation was from him.

Patel and Claassen were scheduled to appear before the liquor board last week to add Patel to the restaurant’s liquor license, but the board’s report from the meeting said an attorney representing the owners asked for a postponement. A new hearing is set for Jan. 31, 2019.

Brandon Weigel

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