Delly firm on sale to Starbucks
March 23, 2007
Pending completion of an environmental survey to the satisfaction of Starbucks, The College Delly and Pizza Restaurant will end its 42-year history in Williamsburg July 1. According to Delly General Manager Ray Causey, Starbucks has maintained its interest throughout the year, and barring the unlikely event that the immediate area does not pass the Virginia Association of Hazardous Materials standards, an agreement between owner Dean Tsamouras and Starbucks will likely be reached soon.
p. Tsamouras has owned the Delly for 22 years and has long desired to maintain its name and tradition. However, recent offers from alumni and other interested parties to keep the name have not provided the same financial security as the offer from Starbucks. According to Tsamouras, he decided to sell the Delly last September, and Starbucks has been interested in the property since.
p. “Sometime in the middle of June is our target date for closing,” Causey said. He added that a final signing of the lease would likely take place within the next two weeks, and he believed that Starbucks’ target opening date would be October 1, 2007. Tsamouras said that while there was no official agreement, “a lot of things would have to happen for it to fall apart.”
p. Under the terms of the lease agreement, Starbucks would be the beneficiary of a 20-year agreement with two additional five-year options, while Tsamouras will remain landlord of the property. Tsamouras did not have an exact figure on the contract but did say that the full lease would consist of millions of dollars.
p. According to Causey, Tsamouras’ reasons for selling the Delly, which he has owned since April of 1986, are largely personal and family-related.
p. “You do see that people love and want to keep The College Delly, but that can’t really factor in your decision when you’re trying to support your family and retire,” Causey said. “[Tsamouras] really has been torn in this process. This is more for his family and for his health.”
p. Tsamouras is still considering one other prominent offer. However, he said that it was nowhere near what he had been seeking. “That guy offered me a quarter of what I wanted,” he said.
p. Causey agreed. “Starbucks has always been the forerunner, and most of the other offers have not been bona-fide,” he said.
p. “Dean [Tsamouras] was always entertaining the possibility for somebody else to carry on the College Delly name,” Causey said. “But these offers haven’t had the down payment or the separation that he desires.”
p. Nevertheless, Tsamouras still has hope that an offer may emerge that could save the College Delly name, but this hope has proved fruitless thus far as most offers have been nowhere near the value of the property.
p. “I’ve been waiting for someone to step up,” he said. “Unless someone came up here and wrote me a check, the Delly’s done.”
p. The initial report in The Flat Hat last September regarding the possibility of the sale of the Williamsburg landmark sparked debate over the future of the establishment. Petitions were signed, Facebook groups were created and the management of the Delly received countless questions and pleas from students, alums and Williamsburg residents.
p. “As the College Delly business, tradition and memory is in jeopardy of fading, offers to save it come out of the woodwork,” Causey said. “It’s the disappointment on the peoples’ faces that gets you. Everyone seems to say ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this.’ They see it as the corporate giant and the little nostalgic Delly, but I don’t know if that’s a good way to look at it.”
p. Causey said that Starbucks appealed to the management and owner of the Delly because of their reliability, punctuality and financial stability regarding the ownership. Tsamouras has been trying to put the Delly in the right hands for several years, but none of the offers were viable or secure enough. Causey also commented on many of the positive qualities of Starbucks, including their attentiveness to water quality and other environmental concerns.
p. It is these concerns that are delaying the final sale. According to Causey, Starbucks is waiting for the results of the ecological survey to discover whether there are any environmental conditions on the premises that could jeopardize future business.
p. “If Starbucks wasn’t happy with the environmental [situation], and they broke the contract, that would be the only way that it wouldn’t happen,” Causey said. He added that he was 95 percent sure that there would be a Starbucks next year, and said that he “didn’t expect any complications at this point.”
p. Tsamouras agreed, saying that the deal seemed to be reaching its final stages.
p. “The only thing that could really stop it is if the HazMat were to come back showing a high level of contamination,” he said.
p. Tsamouras added that he is considering another more stringent environmental survey run by The College Delly in addition to the one run by Starbucks. If the survey is completed, it will push back the timeline for Starbucks’ target opening date.
p. Kenny Fried, a Public Relations Representative for the Starbucks Corporation, said that until a final agreement was signed, the company could not comment on the proceedings.
p. Tsamouras, who plans to keep his College Delly softball team, has fond memories of his time at the Delly, particularly watching students grow.
p. “I love the kids. Students are the only ones that deserve an explanation from me,” he said. “They’re the only thing I’ll miss. To all the students that have touched my life, thanks for all of the memories.”