Updated: 4:07 p.m.
After months of uncertainty, the two New Haven Gourmet Heaven locations on 15 Broadway and 44 Whitney have changed ownership overnight with no breaks in service.
University Properties announced on Friday morning that they had signed lease agreements with Sun Yup Kim, a grocer with 15 years of experience in New York City. Although Gourmet Heaven’s lease was not set to expire until the end of June, owner Chung Cho chose to leave early after realizing that his lease would not be renewed, University Spokesman Tom Conroy wrote in a Friday email to the News. As a result, Kim decided to move in early and take over control of the two stores’ operations.
Although the ownership of the stores has changed, the machinery, retail items and deli menus have remained the same. Moreover, Good Nature Market will run on the same hours as the old Gourmet Heaven and Kim will operate the business with many of the previous employees.
“The signage will, of course, change,” Conroy wrote. “Mr. Kim may do some renovations, but most of the equipment should remain.”
According to UP’s statement Friday morning, Good Nature Market, the name of the store that Kim plans to run, will be a fresh-food market. But, the news release also stated that the new store would still include many of the items provided by Gourmet Heaven such as “basic grocery items, hot and cold beverages, frozen and prepared foods, and made-to-order deli sandwiches.”
UP did not state in their press release how long they have been in negotiations with Kim. However, Kim filed a Connecticut Business Registration on Oct. 23, 2014 for “Good Nature Cafe” on 15 Broadway, the same location as the Gourmet Heaven on Broadway.
“As promised, we were committed to identifying an operator who would meet the needs of our community, and we are delighted to welcome Good Nature Market to New Haven,” said Lauren Zucker, Yale University’s associate vice president for the Office of New Haven Affairs and University Properties, told YaleNews.
UP declined to comment on the other options it had been weighing for 15 Broadway. However, before Good Nature Cafe filed in October, members of Unidad Latina en Accion and Yale student advocacy group MEChA met with University Properties to propose a worker-owned cooperative, said Megan Fountain ’07, a volunteer with ULA.
Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ‘65, however, told The New Haven Register that such a cooperative would not be economically feasible. The Elm City Food Cooperative went bankrupt last year.
“University Properties did very good work in taking a stand against unfair labor practices while at the same time providing continuity to a business that is important to many students and preserving jobs for a community that very much needs them,” Alexander said in a UP press release.
Although Gourmet Heaven is now under a new ownership, Cho has yet to pay his workers the $120,000 owed in unpaid wages that the New Haven superior court awarded to the employees in November, according to Fountain and James Bhandary-Alexander, a lawyer with New Haven Legal Assistance who represented Gourmet Heaven workers against Cho.
Fountain and Bhandary-Alexander both said that the change in ownership would not help the workers recover their unpaid wages.
“No one heard anything about the change of ownership, there was zero input from the community and the students, even though students and community groups had offered input and asked,” Fountain said. “I think that this issue is not going away and the business is still going to be the target of protest.”
Gourmet Heaven opened in 2001.