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Small business in Jensen Beach forced to stop art classes because of non-compete clause

Small business in Jensen Beach forced to stop art classes because of non-compete clause
Posted at 12:22 AM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-11 04:34:36-05

Two neighboring businesses that teach art in Jensen Beach are feeling the competition.

They share the same wall in a shopping plaza. But, one of the business owners says moving forward, there’s only room for one art instruction business.

They are now asking the other business to discontinue its art classes, issuing a cease and desist order.

It has hundreds of people sounding off on social media.

Small business owner Christine Fitzgerald owns Christine’s Coastal Treasures, where she primarily sells home decorations, but also gives occasional art classes.

“I wanted to have my own business all my life,” Fitzgerald said.

This business, she said, also blends her love for art. She said she started doing business the summer of 2016.

“The landlords knew that I was doing furniture painting classes and other artwork,” Fitzgerald said.

But Christine learned in the last month or so, what the landlords knew she was doing is a lot different than what’s actually in writing in her lease.

She said she only wrote down retail, not knowing better to elaborate about art classes in the lease agreement.

“I wasn’t savvy enough to know what I was supposed to put in a lease,” Christine said.

But for nearly a year, her business was never a problem to a neighboring business, Painting With a Twist.

“We were getting along great,” Christine said. 

The owners of Painting With a Twist, Mark and Karen Sandler, knew Christine was doing some art classes.

“We didn’t see it being a problem,” Mark said.

Painting With a Twist is a different concept than what Christine was hosting. Painting with a Twist hosts large paint parties, often with wine or other beverages, with the entire class following an instructor for a specific painting. 

So what changed?

Around December, Mark said he saw a post on Facebook from Christine’s business, showing a schedule of classes. 

That is when he says he realized she was holding more classes than he realized, and discovered the classes were similar to his.

“Our business model was being taken over by somebody who wasn’t in that business and happened to be next door to us,” Mark said.

Christine disagrees with that statement.

“We’re more educational and they’re more entertainment,” Christine said. She also teaches mosaics, furniture painting, decoupage and resin windows among her different classes.

Still, the Sandler’s acted on their non-compete clause, ordering Christine in a cease and desist to stop her classes.

"I cannot do classes. And that’s my passion. That’s half of my business.”

It set off a chain of many comments from impassioned, disappointed loyal customers of Christine’s, arguing she had been in the plaza longer.

Christine says she was originally subleasing space for her business. Her subsequent lease was dated after the Sandler’s, though she had been in business longer in the plaza.

Some supporters of Christine’s feel a big business is pushing away small business.

“We’re not. We’re Mark and Karen who have lived here for 15 years and we’re the owners of this and it’s our money that’s on the line,” Mark said.

Christine is complying with the order and hoping to find a way to continue doing what she loves.

"Im upset about it you can tell but I know that there’s something better out there,” Christine said.