Harry G. Ochs & Sons' butcher stand, which has endured the Great Depression and two world wars, is now facing eviction from Reading Terminal Market, its home since 1906.
Court papers filed Wednesday claim that the founder's son Nicholas Ochs owes nearly $21,000 in rent and utilities plus attorney's costs.
Ochs, who said market management had not applied all his rent checks, said he had no plans to close or give up the business founded when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House and locomotives thundered in the train shed overhead.
Market general manager Paul Steinke said the filing follows a line of repeated demands and was to be considered as a "strong signal" to a merchant in arrears. "If he makes a serious dent in his [back rent], then the complaint is dropped," Steinke said.
According to the suit, Ochs missed payments for five of the last seven months. The market claims that November's rent of $3,714 was paid on Dec. 31 and that August's rent of $3,804 was paid on Jan. 18. Two days later, Jon C. Sirlin, the market's attorney, sent Ochs a letter to warn him about impending legal action to collect the balance.
The situation adds a bitter postscript to the legacy of Harry G. Ochs, the charming, wiry butcher who in 1947 took over the stand from the original Harry Ochs and who led the charge 20 years ago to save the market from redevelopment. In 2004, 41/2 years before his December 2009 death at age 80, the city named the 1100 block of Filbert Street after him.
Ochs said market management has been treating him differently since his father died.
In August, he and the market signed a new five-year lease, effective in April, when the previous lease expired. Ochs contended that the rent had been quadrupled, a point that Steinke disputed. Ochs also said he suspected that Steinke wanted to give his 600-square-foot stand - in a prime spot near the market's Center Court - to another vendor.
Michael Holahan, who owns Pennsylvania General Store and is president of the market's merchant association, said, "I hope the market and Nick can work this out."