Jonathan Merrill and Terry Duncan thought they had the perfect place to open their sandwich shop.
But their childhood dream is in jeopardy, after the Colossal Sandwich Shop was shut down Tuesday because the landlord did not address numerous health and safety violations, including a broken air conditioning unit, a leaking roof, water dripping from filthy rags stuffed into holes in the ceiling and a light bulb full of water with the filament still burning, they said.
Natalie Foster, a spokeswoman for the city, said in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Bedford’s building inspector and the Tarrant County Health Department closed the business “immediately for health and safety reasons.
“Substandard roofing and mechanical/electrical systems must be repaired or replaced to meet minimum code standards. The Colossal Sandwich Shop may resume business operations upon completion of repairs and approval from the City and the Tarrant County Public Health Department,” Foster wrote.
“We weren’t surprised,” Merrill said when asked about his business closing abruptly.
Merrill said when his landlord found out that officials closed the shop, that he wanted to meet with them.
“He either wants us to get out or tell the media to stop,” Merrill said.
When contacted Tuesday afternoon, Sami Ebrahim said he was out of town, and would call back in five minutes, but when the Star-Telegram called for a second time to ask for comments, the voice mailbox was full.
The small shop, with a walk-up window and picnic tables outside, is located at 1301 Brown Trail, on the border of Bedford and Hurst which has been targeted for revitalization.
Merrill, who served in the Army as a medic in the 1980s and later in the U.S. Coast Guard, and his friend, Terry Duncan, discussed owning a business since they met while in school.
Both have culinary experience and wanted to share their specialty sandwiches where the sauces and other ingredients, including coleslaw and sauerkraut, are made from scratch.
But problems with the 300-square foot building began before Merrill and Duncan opened for business.
They described how their landlord promised a “turn key” business when they signed their lease in November, but they discovered the leaking roof and an air conditioning unit that didn’t work.
Water dripped from the roof into the vent for the water heater, forcing them to close since a restaurant can’t operate without hot water.
After the water heater was replaced, they said Ebrahim put a new roof over the existing one, but the leaks are still there, and there is a pool of stagnant water on the roof. Merrill and Duncan described how rags were stuffed in to holes in the ceiling, but they are dripping filthy water into the shop, meaning at least half of their space is unusable.
An attorney, William Reid, who is representing the two business partners, sent a letter to Ebrahim on May 15, alleging that the landlord violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act, but has not gotten a response.
The letter said in part that Ebrahim knowingly made misstatements of fact concerning the air conditioning unit and the condition of the premises.
Merrrill and Duncan said they did not take out loans to start their business, as they wanted to do everything themselves.
“We’ve basically gone broke,” Merrill said. “None of us have taken home paychecks; this is a dream of ours. ”
Merrill and Duncan set up a Go Fund Me page to help with their legal expenses.