XENIA — The owner of Fairgrounds Furniture asked the Greene County Fair Board for more time to vacate her business at a meeting Sept. 18 after receiving a contract termination notice from the board in August.
Fair Board attorney Jeffrey Ferguson told Melissa Hill-Smith that the board would not give her more time; the March 1 date would stand.
Smith spoke during the first five minutes of the meeting, backed by her family and at least two dozen community members. She received a letter from the Fair Board Aug. 23, which included a notice of termination.
“My dad did indeed make this a focal point of the Greene County Fairgrounds. He worked hard to make it successful. After his passing, I was proud to carry on his legacy … As tenants for over 44 years, we have always paid our rent and have rarely asked for anything in return,” Smith said to the board. “The letter implied that this is business, that it’s not personal. This is nothing but personal. This is my livelihood.”
The letter came to Smith after the board asked her to vacate both of the furniture store’s buildings and to close for two weeks for the next Hamvention in May. Hamvention has a contract to use the fairgrounds for its next two events.
Fairgrounds Furniture came up with a proposal of $24,000 to be compensated for moving and storage costs and loss of business. Smith said she didn’t hear from the board again until she received the letter.
“I am not welcome here, that is abundantly clear. I need more time — that’s all I ask,” she pleaded at the meeting.
Fairgrounds Furniture’s attorney Phillip Hoover also spoke.
“Why not negotiate a time frame? Liquidation … it does take some time,” he said.
Ferguson responded, stating that both parties agreed to their contract, which includes a clause that states either party can ask for early termination.
“We’re not evicting these tenants. Eviction is not on the table. A termination of lease is,” he said.
Ferguson said Smith originally asked for the 90-day clause to be admitted to the contract. Ferguson also said that the building tenants are offered one month of free rent each year for the fair and two months of free rent for Hamvention. He said they pay around $2.25 per square foot for rent, which includes heat and air conditioning.
According to Ferguson, the board is giving the furniture store three additional months of free rent.
“So they can stay rent free to help aid in the cost of relocating their business,” he said. “I think we’ve presented them a great opportunity to take additional months free in the facility to aid them.”
Mark Hill, Smith’s brother who helps her operate the store, asked the board, “Why is this such a ‘hurry up’ thing?”
Ferguson replied, “August to March — that’s not a rush, Mark. That’s adequate time to get contractors lined up and begin renovations to the building to create a better future for the fairgrounds that this board has a responsibility for.”
After a member in the audience pleaded to be heard, the fair board agreed to five minutes of public comment.
“If Mountain Hill was here, this wouldn’t be happening,” one woman said.
“It’s a travesty of justice,” Xenia councilman Dale Lauderback said.
Smith’s children also spoke up.
“My grandpa owned this business, ran it, even loved it … ” Justin Smith said.
His sister continued.
“You know this business was his pride and joy. He literally worked ‘till the day he passed away,” Megan Smith said. “To shut his legacy down like this is completely wrong.”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.