Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said Sharpfle Waffle has already closed their doors. They are in fact closing on April 30.
By Charlie Senack
A waffle and coffee shop in Hintonburg is closing its doors at the end of April due to an “exclusivity clause” put in place by a neighbouring business.
Sharpfle Waffle, which opened on Wellington Street West in Dec. 2021, said it needs to vacate the space due to a lease agreement Stella Luna has with Tamarack Realty Management, the building’s landlord.
Sharpfle Waffle did not respond to Kitchissippi Times’ many requests for comment ahead of publication, but said in a social media statement April 15 they were “regretfully” terminating their operations at the end of the month.
“For the past year and half, we were blessed to serve such a lovely community and to be surrounded by people with great passion and love for what we do here at Sharpfle Waffle,” the statement read.
Soon after the statement was released, Stella Luna, located in the same plaza three doors down, released its own statement to address the “allegations that have been made on social media” regarding the legal dispute.
Zachary Giuliani, who took over the family-run gelato business from his mother Tammy Giuliani earlier this year, wrote that “important information has been omitted from the online discourse” which would paint a clearer picture of the complex situation.
“As small business owners would, we took the precaution of including exclusivity terms in our lease agreement to ensure the long-term viability of Stella Luna at the Wellington Street West location prior to entering into the lease,” he said.
“Stella Luna was never consulted or provided notice by our landlord that another ‘restaurant or cafe-like business’ had been allowed to rent a Unit in the Plaza,” the statement continued. “It was, and remains, our position that allowing Sharple Waffle to operate out of the same premises was a breach of our lease agreement by the landlord.”
Sharpfle Waffle was founded by James Choi, a former public servant. They specialize in croffles, which are Korean croissant-waffles. The space roasts coffee beans and has held coffee-tasting events in the past.
Stella Luna, which also serves coffee, said in a statement of claim filed in Ontario’s Supreme Court they were “suffering irreparable harm” and faced a “real risk that the business will not prosper or even survive in the presence of direct competition.” It also claimed the gelato shop paid a premium for the exclusivity rights.
Choi told other media outlets that in order to keep operating out of the space, the menu offerings would need to change to a level that was not sustainable for the first-time business owner.
Specialty coffee would need to be cut from the menu, but drip coffee and steeped or brewed tea could be served. The restaurant would also need to close their dining area which seats eight and only offer takeout services.
In their statement Stella Luna, who has operated out of their corner space since 2016, said they have no “ill intent” with Sharpfle Waffle, noting their issue is with the landlord.
“As small business owners ourselves, we sympathize with its predicament as a result of what we perceive to be a breach of our lease agreement by our Landlord,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement with our Landlord and as such, were left without any other options but to turn to legal action to enforce our contractual rights against our landlord.”
Founded in 2011, Stella Luna operates four locations in the Ottawa area. They have won international awards for their gelato, but came under fire in February 2022 after former owner Tammy Giuliani anonymously donated $250 to the so-called “freedom convoy.” Her name later appeared in a leaked list of GiveSendGo donors.
Tammy Giuliani later said she regretted the donation, but the business faced widespread criticism from former customers who felt like the apology didn’t go enough. New owners Zachary Giuliani and his fiancé, Christopher Berneck, said in an interview last month that they wanted to rebuild as an “inclusive and engaging space.”
Sharpfle Waffle hopes to reopen at another location in the Hintonburg area