Land sale closes equipment business
A Lakeville small business owner says he is being forced to close shop after operating in the same location for over two decades.
Ed Veits, owner of Valley Lawn & Sport, said his landlords sold the property and building he has rented on a lease-to-own agreement without his knowledge then sent a June 1 letter that gave him 30 days to move out.
Veits, 52, said he was shocked to learn from his customers who read a May 19 article in this newspaper stating the Lakeville City Council unanimously approved preliminary development plans for the site where his business is located, west of I-35 and south of County Road 46.
“The day that article came out in the paper, a couple customers actually called me up and said, uh, are you guys going out of business, or moving or what’s going on?” Veits said. “And we’re like, what are you talking about? No, we’re not going anywhere.”
Veits said he then read the article online and felt “completely blind-sided” to learn of the development plans.
“After 25 years, my business is destroyed,” Veits said. “This was supposed to be my retirement, and I’m being forced out of business. We’re liquidating everything.”
Manufacturers of well-known brands he has carried for decades arrived this week to remove all their new equipment from his store. Auctioneers have tagged inventory for sale.
“It’s just been a frickin’ nightmare,” Veits said. “You can’t even imagine.”
He said he has poured his life into building the business, and stays up nights with worries he will lose everything he has worked for, his house and good credit.
Veits said he has always had a good relationship with his landlords, Fred and Karen Steinert of Shakopee, and was completely caught off-guard with the situation.
“I thought they were great people,” Veits said.
He said he has for years also agreed on a payment schedule that fit his seasonal business and income, but this spring Karen Steinert called and said they needed him to get caught up on the rent money outside their normal schedule, so he scrambled to get over $10,000 within days of the request.
Veits’ business is located at 16345 Kenyon Avenue, and is surrounded by the former Jackson Landscape property, approximately 25 acres off of Lee Lake.
Ross Malinski, CEO of Guardian Development Company, plans to construct a three-story 120-unit apartment building and a 62,400-square-foot, enclosed self-storage building, then later add a 12,000-square-foot multi-tenant retail building on the site.
Fred Steinert said they are selling the land primarily due to financial reasons and denied not informing Veits of their plans to sell.
He said he has been in business his whole life, and has become so frustrated with the government and how much it takes in taxes he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the government.
He added the government is going to take more in taxes than he will make selling the property, describing the situation as bad all around.
Fred Steinert said years ago the city of Bloomington took his rental business property in eminent domain and forced him to close or impose a $1,000 daily fine if he did not vacate it.
“The government kicked me out of my first business,” Fred Steinert said. “They put me out in the street.”
Fred Steinert said their Bloomington property has never been developed and they could have still been in business.
“They never touched it,” Fred Steinert said. “They just walk in the door and tell you you’re done. You have to accept their offer. I think it’s just not right.”
Veits said he remembers the stress Fred Steinert endured while the eminent domain process was underway.
“Now, they’re doing the same thing to me,” Veits said.
Fred Steinert said their attorney informed Veits in December by registered mail of their plans to sell the property and their attorney has been working with Veits since January.
He said he also told Veits several times he was going to sell the property.
“His comments were you dropped a bomb on me,” Fred Steinert said.
Veits said there was no warning or a registered letter in December.
“That is not the case at all,” Veits said. “There was no registered letter. I never received it.”
Fred Steinert said he would provide the newspaper with a copy of the December registered letter that was sent to Veits, but had not done so before this edition went to press and did not respond to follow-up calls from a reporter seeking the document.
Veits said the short timeframe to vacate the property has caused significant stress for himself and family.
He said 30 days is not enough time to find a new location for the business, which would involve numerous considerations.
Veits said he would have to be mindful of where other dealers are located so he does not encroach on another competitor and would also need to get approval of any new location from the companies whose brands he carries.
He said he would also likely need a conditional use permit and city council approvals, which take months to process and complete.
Over the years he has operated out of the Lakeville location, Veits said he has invested his own money to do repairs on the building and paid for many security measures in an effort to address multiple burglaries.
A sign in the store states it has been burglarized nine times since September 2005 and lost over $100,000 in stolen equipment.
The incidents lessened greatly after Veits compounded his security measures with barred doors and added concrete barriers to reinforce a fenced area after thieves rammed vehicles through the fencing with trailers and hauled out expensive commercial mowers numerous times.
He said he has worked hard for decades, working six-day weeks since he started his business in Burnsville 25 years ago.
Veits said he attempted to pay off the lease with a $25,000 check sent by certified mail, but the check was returned and the Steinert’s lawyer sent a letter stating the payoff offer was rejected.
“It’s just completely wiped me out,” Viets said. “My family’s stressed out about this, and my parents and just it has been a frickin’ nightmare. The little guy gets pushed out of the way and just no consideration of my being here. Obviously this has been in the works for quite a long time, and they’ve kept me in the dark. All of the sudden the rug’s yanked out from under me and I’m losing everything.”