January 16, 2019

Taking a Stand for His Newsstand

The owner and operator of a popular Brentwood newsstand, which he has run for nearly three decades, is in danger of losing the business despite a months-long campaign to keep it open.

Marck Sarfati, the 66-year-old owner, learned earlier this year that his landlord, the adjacent Whole Foods, did not intend to extend his lease, which expired on Sept. 30. Whole Foods has since granted him a one-month extension and his lawyer is attempting to continue negotiations with Amazon, which bought Whole Foods in June.

Sarfati still shows up at the newsstand daily, as he has for 28 years, but he fears his days of selling newspapers, magazines and cigarettes may be coming to an end.

“[Whole Foods] knows they can file an unlawful detainer against me and win,” Sarfati said. “But I think what is in their minds is how this is going to play out in court and how much media I can get with the headlines ‘Amazon and Whole Foods Throwing Out a Newsstand.’ ”

With his moonbeam smile and jovial disposition, Sarfati is a fixture in Brentwood, boasting, “We’re the largest and most famous newsstand in the city.”

The business, along with the much smaller stand he owns on Robertson Boulevard in front of a Walgreens, is Sarfati’s only source of income, which he said he needs to care for his 96-year-old father, Nic, a Holocaust survivor who has dementia. For 30 years, Nic owned the Beach House Market in Venice Beach.

Sarfati has circulated — in person and online — a petition to save the newsstand, with more than 5,000 people signing, including such celebrities as Dustin Hoffman, Owen Wilson and Henry Winkler. He has organized protests and printed T-shirts that proclaim, “Save Brentwood Newsstand.” He also has created bright yellow-and-black placards stating, “Being Evicted by Whole Foods” and “28 Years Here.”

Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, whose District 11 includes Brentwood, signed the petition and issued a statement that said, “The Brentwood Newsstand is a community treasure and the Sarfatis’ story exemplifies the American dream. I’m joining the thousands of neighbors in Brentwood and other nearby neighborhoods to urge Whole Foods’ management to reconsider their decision and allow the Brentwood Newsstand to stay at its current location.”

Sarfati and his attorney sent Whole Food and Amazon the petition signatures along with their repeated requests to have the newsstand’s lease renewed.

Bonin also encouraged Sarfati to file a request with the city to have the stand designated a historical landmark. Sarfati has done so but said consideration for the designation is a slow process with no guarantees.

Meanwhile, his resistance has generated coverage from the Los Angeles Times and local TV stations. But after Sarfati’s attorney spoke with the head of global litigation at Whole Foods in mid-September, Sarfati agreed to halt his protests while the two parties attempted to negotiate a settlement.

Sarfati has requested an additional 18 months on the lease. As of the Journal’s press time, Whole Foods has responded with an offer of just one more month.

Whole Foods did not return messages from the Journal seeking comment on the status of the negotiations.

Sarfati was back at his newsstand on Oct. 1, and said he had mailed his October rent check well in advance.

“I’ll be honest,” he told the Journal by telephone several days later, “we’re experiencing an almost 30 percent loss in revenue. I think some people just assumed we wouldn’t be here after Sept. 30.”

For now, he is waiting and hoping the attorneys can hammer out a favorable settlement.

He said he hoped to hear good news by Oct. 13.

If not, he said, “We aim to hold our own as long as we can.”