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Sudden ‘disappearance’ of tanning firm explained

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

PEPPERELL — The unexpected disappearance of Great Northern Tanning Company from the lower level of White Hen Plaza on Tarbell Street two months ago has angered and confused some customers who showed up for contracted services but were not aware of the move, according to business owners in the building.

One of them, Alan St. Croix of Alan’s Photography, said, “People are still asking what happened, when they show up and find the doors shut.”

Great Northern has relocated to larger quarters in the Townsend Harbor Village Mall on Main Street and, according to owner Josh Garfinkle, is growing and doing well there.

The quickness with which the firm vacated its rented quarters — in less than 24 hours — fostered a number of rumors, particularly because a month prior to the move Garfinkle allegedly posted signs stating that the company was in town to stay.

“Six weeks before the move we gave each customer a letterhead and we went to all local businesses with flyers,” Garfinkle said of the planned move.

One of his employees said that 2,000 flyers had been printed, and were supposed to be handed out to each of the firm’s approximately 1,600 customers, but that wasn’t done. She said the flyers were found on top of a file cabinet and that two employees were fired because of it.

Garfinkle confirmed that two employs were “terminated for not following company policy” and that signs stating the business was not closing had been hung inside the tanning booths.

“That was done,” he said, “because we hadn’t finalized settlement with White Hen (Pantry Inc. of Norwood, owner of the building).

“The building was not maintained to the standards we felt were appropriate,” Garfinkle said, which apparently led to a running dispute with White Hen. “Water pipes bursting, sewage leaks, a wet parking lot,” he continued. “The plumbing inspector and others have looked at the space. A sewage pipe burst by the door last winter. That started us thinking this isn’t working out.”

One Great Northern employee said White Hen was not upholding its contract to keep the outside clean and that Dumpsters were not emptied. She also accused St. Croix of tearing down notices of the move that had been taped to the outside of the office windows.

St. Croix, who is paid to maintain the White Hen building, admits to having taken down the signs at the direction of White Hen. “After they moved one of the White Hen managers came down to check and said to get these signs off because the building is not a billboard for someone who vacated,” he said.

St. Croix said each business hired and paid for its own trash removal. He said that in his maintenance role he often had to pick up Great Northern’s trash. Their Dumpster has been removed, he said, and the two receptacles that remain belong to the White Hen convenience store.

As a business owner in the building, St. Croix said the parking lot puddles are a problem and that several water leaks have occurred. He said the “sewage” leak was actually a burst line from a grease trap from the upstairs convenience store, which caused a significant odor for two days.

St. Croix denied rumors he was behind Great Northern’s move because he wanted the business space. “I have a hard time paying for what I rent now,” St. Croix said. “After the move, I did say if you haven’t got anyone I would think about it.”

John Pucillo, a White Hen manager from the Norwood headquarters, had no comment about the departure of Great Northern. St. Croix indicated litigation had been involved.

Garfinkle said his “settlement” with White Hen covered his cost of moving. “We came to amenable terms and were released from the lease. That was that. We all just parted ways.” Garfinkle said he is happy with the new location.

“We have more room in Townsend and will be adding booths,” he said. “We’re about a mile from the Pepperell line. A lot of our customers are closer and some are five minutes further away.”

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