CINCINNATI — Its largest lender won a foreclosure judgment against Clifton Market last week, but prospective owner Gurmukh Singh remains hopeful he can broker a deal to keep the store alive permanently.
“Nothing is slowing us down,” Singh said. “We’re working hard to bring the store back to where it needs to be.”
Singh has been operating Clifton Market under a management contract since Nov. 15, when he agreed to buy the beloved-but-beleaguered grocery store from a neighborhood cooperative. He offered to pay $1.8 million, but three lenders are owed more than $3.1 million.
Hamilton County Magistrate Anita Berding granted one of those lenders, National Cooperative Bank, a motion for summary judgment on its foreclosure claim on Thursday, March 14. It’s the first step in forcing a sale of the property at a sheriff’s auction.
“The co-op owns the real estate until it’s sold at auction,” said Eric Goering, attorney for Clifton Cooperative Market. “It will still take them several months to get through the court system and sell the property. During that time period … it can continue to proceed with Mr. Singh as the manager of the property.”
Goering said it’s a good sign that lenders didn’t push for a court-appointed receiver to replace Singh as the property’s manager. His goal is to negotiate a sale that satisfies all three lenders that hold mortgage liens on the property. He wouldn’t say if lenders are pushing for a higher purchase price.
“We’re talking,” he said. “Negotiations are ongoing.”
Arlington, Virginia-based NCB claimed it was owed $1.9 million as of Dec. 17 with interest accruing at $654 per day. Minneapolis-based Shared Capital Cooperative claims it is owed $1 million plus 7.5 percent interest since August 2018.
Shareholder Robert Bergstein joined another company, RA Third Street LLC, in a third claim on Clifton Market’s assets. They were owed $247,000 at the end of 2018 with interest still accruing, according to their court filing.
Singh said he hasn’t been asked to increase his offer to satisfy all three lenders, and he wouldn’t say whether he’d be willing to do so.
“I really like this business. I want to save it,” he said. “But we have certain limits too.”