When word began to spread this week that Whole Foods in the Washington Crossing shopping center was already closing its doors, many local residents were shocked.
After all, it opened a little over two years ago in September 2014.
And the fact that the store is going to close in less than two weeks was also a bit jarring from some people.
It all seemed a little abrupt.
Also, considering Whole Foods is a more than 40,000-square-foot supermarket, its closure leaves a major hole in Washington Crossing.
Of course, many readers may remember that the opening of Whole Foods wasn’t quite a slam dunk.
While most of the stores and restaurants located in Washington Crossing appeared to be thriving, there were a number of liens placed on the property back in 2015 by local companies seeking payment for work performed on the shopping center.
And the bills that were due weren’t chump change.
Back in February 2015, The Insider reported that the liens amounted to more than $200,000 that these companies claimed the developer owed them.
For instance, the locally-owned business Chaplin and Sons Clearing and Demolition claimed it was owed approximately $140,000 on the project.
Back then, Sig Cox, Inc. was waiting and waiting to receive its $34,520 that was billed to the principal contractor on the project, Young Contracting of Atlanta.
Mid-South Interiors and Exteriors had two liens on the property in the amount of $17,748 and $37,246.
And Augusta Concrete Block Company filed a lien in the amount of $8,887 on Washington Crossing, LLC, while Augusta Ready Mix also filed a lien on the property in the amount of $2,791 for materials it provided to the project for Central Masonry, Inc.
Most of the companies that were owed money were based right here in Augusta. Meanwhile, the commercial real estate development firm behind the project, S.J. Collins Enterprises, is based in Fairburn, Ga.
Some people speculated that the developer was simply dragging its feet in paying the local companies, but several insiders believed Washington Crossing, LLC was actually trying to wait folks out until they were willing to settle for less than what they were owed.
After all, if smaller local companies have to hire an attorney, place a lien on the property and take time off work to fight for their money in court, these bigger developers know that it will end up being very costly for the “little guy.”
The big developers knew that the longer they drug it out, the more desperate these smaller companies became to just get paid something for the job.
In the end, that’s what happen to most of these local companies.
They were forced to settle for what they could get, even if it wasn’t the full amount that was originally agreed upon.
It’s the worst way to treat small business owners because the work was already completed, the stores were already open and shoppers were already browsing through the aisles.
All the while, money was still owed.
And to make matter worse, many of the smaller companies involved in the Washington Crossing said that the work on the building was extremely complex.
One subcontractor described the shopping center as a “nightmare project” because the structure was extremely outdated and required significant improvements in order to transform it into the impressive 149,000-square-feet retail space it is today.
“I want my money,” the subcontractor told the Metro Spirit in 2015. “I’m done playing games with these jokers.”
To add more stress into the mix, some of the local companies heard rumors that the Atlanta contractor decided to submit an extremely low bid in order to get awarded the work on the shopping center.
The fear was that the financing for the Washington Crossing, LLC was upside down almost from the very beginning.
Well, folks, karma is clearly a bitch.
Washington Crossing is now without its anchor tenant.
The lesson here is this: Don’t screw over local companies in a small city like Augusta because such actions leave a very bad taste in people’s mouths.