It seems that successful Black business owners are being abruptly pushed out of malls across the country, and they’re searching for answers.
This was certainly the case for Italia Talley, who claims that on Christmas Eve the mall manager at the Southpoint Mall, not far from Richmond, Virginia, served her with a lease termination notice without prior warnings.
She says the manager claimed her lease was being terminated for banners of Santa Claus displayed in her store.
Similarly, Mike Phelps, owner of Sir Castle Tees, a specialty sneaker and clothing store in Durham, North Carolina says he was asked to vacate his space, despite it being one of the most popular stores in the mall.
Several other businesses, including the popular sneaker store “Agenda” run by Kendron Haggerty in the Galleria Mall in Houston, have faced similar situations even though mall management claims this has nothing to do with discrimination.
Could these incidents be a series of coincidences? Or is there more to these unfortunate events?
Talley had only been in the location for eight months before her lease was suddenly terminated, and was shocked at what the mall manager told her when she asked for a reason why.
“He said ‘you can’t tie Santa up! You can’t tie Santa up with a rope!'” Talley said the mall manager told her, in reference to a storefront display.
Talley went on to say that the mall manager took exception to the display, which featured Santa tied up by several models in a naughty pose, and another in a nice pose.
Black Business Owner Kicked Out Of Mall, Yet No Real Reason Was Given
She defended the display, saying “naughty or nice” type marketing is common amongst the holiday season.
And business was good for Talley, who said she was completely surprised when the mall manager handed her a large envelop with her lease termination on Christmas Eve. She said she confronted him about it, to which he refused to speak on when asked.
The Shade Room obtained a copy of that termination notice, and nowhere did it state why she was being evicted from the commercial property.
She was ultimately given less than a full week to vacate, despite never getting any written warnings or otherwise.
Talley said she had to throw away a lot of stuff because she didn’t have time to move all of the merchandise. That’s when she called India Miles, a Black reporter in the area who started investigating.
“This is the second (Black-owned) business to have been asked to leave the mall under this kind of pretense,” Miles tells TSR Investigates’ Justin Carter. “That’s why everyone in the community is so outraged.”
Community Outrage Began Last Year After Black Store Owner Went Viral For Similar Lease Termination
That community outrage began sometime last year, when Mike Phelps, owner of Sir Castle Tees – a specialty sneaker and clothing store in Durham, North Carolina – was similarly kicked out of his store without warning.
In a now-viral video, Phelps says he earned her $1 million in a short six months.
“We had no issues, no problems, paid our rent on time. We were one of the most popular stores in the mall,” Phelps said.
But despite his good standing, Phelps too was handed a lease termination notice, suspiciously given to him shortly after a shooting at the mall on Black Friday 2021.
However the shooting was nowhere near his store, and was a full 25-stores away from were it happened. Regardless, his store was shut down at the mall just over a month later.
Black Business Owner’s Store Closed After Completely Unrelated Black Friday Shooting
Phelps, who is Black, said he was given some vague reason about there being too many sneaker stores in the mall, but he wasn’t listed as a sneaker store.
He added the mall promised to relocate him after news coverage of his lease termination, which never came to fruition. The Shade Room reached out to the mall in question, who said they would look into the situation.
The company did release a statement to Spectrum News, writing:
“All short-term licenses permit termination, and termination is not uncommon for these types of agreements… We are aware that there has been speculation about the reason for the termination, but unfortunately we aren’t able to publicly discuss what led to the termination.”
Another Popular Sneaker Store Owned By Black Businessman Closed Under Dubious Circumstances
The popular sneaker store “Agenda” run by Kendron Haggerty in the Galleria Mall in Houston face similar circumstances. Haggerty, who is also Black, had his store quickly become a local hotspot for celebrities, but was still handed a lease termination notice.
Haggerty says he too was given a reason regarding “selling shoes” as the reason behind the termination, which amounts for roughly 60 percent of his store’s business.
He added that malls typically rent out store space to small business owners, only to dump them for bigger chains when the opportunity arises. Haggerty went on to say the mall offered him another spot, but that it was a “dead zone.”
He says he was forced to sign the new agreement, while the mall adamantly denied race playing any part in the situation.
In Talley’s case, The Shade Room investigation led to a response from CBL Properties, who owns the mall in question, saying they reached out to her and have “offered her an alternative resolution.”
She says she’s been offered to return to the Southpoint Mall, but is unsure if she wants to make that commitment again.
TSR Investigates explores cold cases and special interest news stories underrepresented in mainstream media.