BENNINGTON -- Greenberg's Lumber Yard will be closed by Sept. 1, because according to a member of the Greenberg family they could not reach a deal over the real estate property with the company they sold the business to last year.
Many learned of the closure through a sidewalk sign placed outside the 321 Main Street property on Wednesday. An employee at the store said that workers learned of the closure Tuesday evening.
Greenberg's Lumber Yard opened as H. Greenberg and Son on Feb. 3, 1949, according to its website. In 2013 the Greenberg family sold the business to Leader Home Centers, which has five other locations including one in Brattleboro. The Greenbergs still own the 1.92-acre parcel of land.
According to town records, the land is owned by Normsel Development LLC, which takes its name from founder Norman Greenberg and his wife Selma Greenberg., both of whom are deceased. The property is assessed at $940,600 and is in the care of Steven Greenberg, one of Norman and Selma's sons. Their other son, David Greenberg, manages the family's real estate assets.
David Greenberg said in an interview Wednesday that his brother negotiated the sale of the hardware business to Leader Home Centers, but the contract was unusual. Leader bought the store's inventory, equipment, and name, but it had one year to close on the land and the buildings. It could, at its own discretion, back out at the end of the year-long period.
Greenberg said he fully expected Leader to buy the property. He said it was talking with a bank about a financing loan and having the Greenbergs go ahead with environmental studies. The deadline was even extended at one point, he said.
According to Greenberg, his family never made any change to the agreement to account for Leader Home Centers backing out.
He said this development is "extremely disappointing," as it will mean another vacant space in the downtown, something the family wanted to avoid. The hope was to sell the hardware store to a company that would keep the Greenberg name in business. He said no one in the family lives in Bennington, nor did they follow career paths that would let them take over a hardware store full-time. He said Steven Greenberg ran the store for a short time.
He said the family and other stakeholders will have to meet to determine where they go from here. The hardware store lot is connected to a number of other properties in the trust, including the Putnam Hotel, so there are questions about how to go about selling them, either as one or individually.
Greenberg said he was under the impression that the store was doing well, citing remodeling work that happened there over the winter.
Attempts to reach management at Leader Home Centers was not successful Wednesday.
"It's unfortunate that the Greenbergs and Leader Home were unable to come to an agreement on the property, as we understand that Leader has a desire to be in Bennington," said Bennington Economic and Community Development Director Michael Harrington in an email to members of the Select Board.
"Town leaders are having a meeting with Leader on Friday, and I know from there we'll have a better idea of what opportunities there are and how the town can be of assistance," said Harrington in an interview. "The reason for Leader closing the store was specific to the sale of the land around the property."
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.