Candidate’s business actions unethical

Letter to the editor

To the editor:
   I was surprised to hear of Michael Vanderbeck’s candidacy for mayor of the borough. It is important that our elected officials and community leaders exhibit a high degree of integrity and thus I would like to share my recent experience with Mr. Vanderbeck.
   A partner and I recently formed a corporation, Hightstown Coffee Co., with the intention of locating a specialty coffee shop within the downtown area. Our idea was to have this shop be an anchor tenant for the revitalization effort to help bring more people into the town center and to attract new businesses to the area. More than just a business enterprise, our idea was to make this a cultural, community gathering place. This plan was carefully researched, shared with many people in the community and generally thought of as a welcome development. We had the funding, a time frame set to open in April and a lot of momentum for this project.
   We believed that the ideal location for the shop would be on the corner of Mercer and Rogers streets, a building owned by Mr. Vanderbeck. In addition, the owner of A Step Back in Time, Nick Chaffer, was planning to move from that location to Franklin Street, thereby creating the vacancy we desired. We had told Mr. Vanderbeck that we intended to open a coffee shop and wished to provide him with a proposal for our business which he readily agreed to review so that we could eventually rent the space.
   Our proposal to him included detailed marketing plans, layout designs, decor and overall concept of the business. After our meeting, he took with him a copy of our marketing plan, all under the understanding that he intended to secure a lease with us. After our meeting there was an extended period of time where he did not return follow-up phone calls. Though we had not yet signed a lease, he had given us a general thumbs-up on our project, so we continued with the work of developing our coffee shop — contracts with suppliers and equipment, designs for the restoration and planning community arts events for the opening. To our disappointment we heard through community sources that he had planned to put a coffee shop in himself. When confronted with this, he simply dismissed it as trying to maximize the investment on his property. He even laughed and told me that he’d need a manager and asked if I would be interested. As the owner of his building, he is entitled to open up any business he chooses, but it was unethical for him to even meet with us and absorb our intellectual property if he had no intentions of leasing the space.
   Whether his mistakes were made from naiveté or simply poor business judgment, apparently this is not a candidate that can form the positive coalition that this town needs.
Amy Hovis Joye