TILTON – After more than 30 years in business, it looks like the sun is finally setting on beloved Pauli’s Bakery & Restaurant. Landlords say it’s not by choice, but results in an “annoyance” clause in the rental agreement, spurred by a deteriorated tenant-landlord relationship.
Towards the end of November, it was announced that Pauli’s lease would not be renewed, forcing the restaurant to close. The lease will expire at the end of February and Pauli’s will close its doors for good on January 31.
Owners and patrons have frequented the restaurant since it was founded by Cheryl Garret in 1990. Shortly after her death in 2019, the restaurant was purchased by Melissa Dolpie and is co-managed by her husband Michael. “We have made it known that we want Pauli to continue,” said Dolpie, “our goal has been to continue Cheryl’s legacy.”
Since its founding, Pauli’s has been a staple in downtown Tilton life. It’s a place that some regulars have so much confidence in that they have their own keys so they can open early on the weekends. Pauli’s is an increasingly rare beast in the American economy safari: a true restaurant where the food is affordable, the waitresses chat lovingly and openly with and among guests, and there isn’t a single sterile graphic piece. or chrome fixtures. It’s an establishment where tourists come to get a taste of authentic small-town New England life while serving as a haven for old locals to come together and laugh at old memories.
“The old style of the local house is disappearing,” said boss Penny Barnum as she ate breakfast with her husband, Doug and their longtime friend Roger Main.
“If this restaurant closes, there really isn’t another place in this neighborhood, so I think it’s going to hurt a lot,” said Main, who admitted there was still the Tilt’n Diner. , but it’s not downtown, and not quite the same.
“It really is more calm, peaceful and unique,” Barnum said.
“I think it’s a very popular place,” said Doug Barnum, “people are going to want it to stay open.”
Barnum was not far in his feelings. As of December 15, more than 1,800 people had signed an online petition to keep the restaurant open. The petition was started by waitress Sarah Zurline, who started working at Pauli just five months ago.
“I actually quit a job in the hospital,” said Zurline, “I worked in the operating room and came here. I wanted to take a break from medicine and fell in love with the environment of the place.
Zurline pointed out the special niche occupied by Pauli beyond being a place to eat.
“We have regulars who have been coming for decades,” said Zurline. “This is how they get together, so it’s sad.”
Due to a contractual clause, the owner of the building, Donna Muehlen, has the right to terminate the lease, but Zurline hopes the petition will make her reconsider.
“I was hoping that once she saw how much this meant to the community,” said Zurline, that she would change her mind. “It affects businesses nearby. On weekends when we have waiting lists everyone is waiting outside to get in for a table, they walk through the windows, they come into the stores, they come in with bags from the stores here.
Muehlen could not be reached for comment, so her position on the petition remains unknown. According to a letter from Muehlen’s legal team, the Dolpies did not properly notify Muehlen of their intention to renew the lease within 120 days of the end of the lease by certified mail. The letter also states that the Dolpies will no longer have direct communication with Muehlen’s business and will only be able to speak to him through his lawyer, James L. Soucy.
“We missed a deadline for sending a certified letter with our intention to stay so she has every right to do what she does,” said Melissa Dolpie. “This is something that has been overlooked. It was not on our radar, we were working on our various activities and we were focusing on how to get through the pandemic. It was a simple human error.
Melissa’s husband Michael said Pauli’s former owners never had to use certified mail, and also claimed other tenants in the building didn’t have to either. The other tenants declined to comment on this story.
“It’s a trap clause.” It is what it is, ”said Michael, who said this recent move was the result of a lot of talk between the owner, Pauli’s and construction workers. As a result, Pauli had to shut down operations at times.
“They were working in the upstairs apartment once,” Michael said. “We have repeatedly asked if they can do the work after hours. The answer was no and the work continued. “There was an incident where a piece of the ceiling fell in the kitchen and hit a cook,” said Michael. “When we complained and confronted the Undertaker, the Undertaker was offended and became loud and physically threatening.
There have been other incidents and issues with the building, especially construction related, and according to Michael, the owner’s response was always the same: “If you don’t like it, you can go.
Michael, who is a landlord himself, said disagreements between tenants and landlords are quite normal, but Muehlen’s attitude of “if you don’t like him you can leave” was anything but common practice. The Daily Sun contacted Muehlen’s lawyer to get the other side of the story, but Soucy made no comment.
As for the Dolpies, they are ready to move on and put it all behind them, but with a certain sadness.
“We didn’t want that,” Michael said. “Cheryl died unexpectedly and the business survived, the business survived the pandemic. It’s a shame that this feud between the owner and the business was what pulled the rug out from under him.
Despite a potentially and possibly sad end for such a beloved business, current owner Melissa Dolpie doesn’t want people to be bitter and focused on what went wrong.
“Pauli’s has been a staple for 30 years,” Dolpie said, “that’s the takeaway. Cheryl’s legacy and how much everyone loved this place. That’s why we took it over and took it over. wanted to keep it. It was a good place, and that’s why I want to be remembered.