News Clips— Chain gang

Will DiLaurenti sale bring corporate commerce into the Market?

THERE'S ALWAYS a deeper, ever more fractious story behind the headlines of any Pike Place Market feud. That's especially true of the bad blood spilled over the sale of the DeLaurenti Specialty Food Market to a pizza chain.

Though reported as a done deal after the Market Historical Society's narrow 4-3 approval vote, the sale still faces a crucial lease vote by the Market council. The City Council also must give its blessing, and the Market's guerrilla resistance is still wielding the long knives. They're livid that new owners may get an unprecedented eight-and-a-half-year initial lease, and contend the purchase of the venerable Italian food store at the market's doorstep violates the historic policy against chain businesses in two ways:

*A chain is a chain is a chain: The three new DeLaurenti owners are also the three new owners of the Pagliacci Pizza chain (three restaurants and 12 pickup/delivery kitchens). Even if, as stated in the market lease, just one of the trio is tapped to run DeLaurenti's and promises not to sell Pagliacci products there, the market store is nonetheless part of their chain operations, Baffetto Inc. Conversely, Pagliacci could also brand and sell DeLaurenti products at its stores—with the bonus of the products being "from the world-famous Pike Place Market."

*It's the first link of a new chain: With a chain-minded ownership—the three proprietors come from, and are backed by money from, other chain businesses—franchising DeLaurenti's may come naturally (there's already a second store in Bellevue, though it's unclear if that's part of the sale). Despite the market's history as a marvelous carnival of independent one-owner business, "reverse chains" are not unprecedented. Sur La Table, which began in the market, has since chained to two dozen stores in 10 states. Then there's that little coffee company, Starbucks (3,500 stores and counting), that first opened its doors in the market. But they're grandfathered in.

Market boss Daniel Lieberman says consent would be needed to use the market's brand, and though nothing specifically prevents chains or reverse chains, "strong language" in the lease "gets at the intention of the bylaws."

"This deal," observes critic and Market Constituency Chair Eric Pollard, "is morally reprehensible, and I'm being kind." Adds dissenting Market council member Theresa Alexander: "Call it what it is: a corporate raid on the farmers market."

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