by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 12, 2015 at 11:09 P.M. CST
Dave Gerszewski, 81, is being kicked out of the Grand Cities Mall by Hope Church over money and rumors.
Gerszewski has owned and operated Precious Metals Gold & Silver Exchange at the mall in Grand Forks for 18 years.
On October 6, 2015, Gerszewski was given a letter of eviction and told to be out within 30 days or all his property would belong to the owners of the mall.
According to Gerszewski, the trouble started when mall management increased his rent from $500 to $2,000. “They said they could rent this space out in two days (for $2,000 per month) and they are losing money,” he said.
Gerszewski said he could not meet the dramatic rent increase, and a written lease was subsequently drafted for him to continue paying $500 per month until November, 2015; he would then be completely moved out by November 30.
But that agreement changed on October 6 when the mall manager, Louis Christoffer, gave Gerszewski a letter that unilaterally declared:
|“Effective 30 days from today, Tuesday October 6, 2015, your lease is hereby terminated and you are to vacate your currently occupied space by 11:59pm on Thursday November 5, 2015. Your behavior towards other tenants has been disruptive and is negatively effecting not only tenants, but also shoppers within the mall”.|
Gerszewski said he believed this was the second time the mall owners had arbitrarily violated a legal agreement or good faith assurance.
Gerszewski said he asked Christoffer what shoppers and tenants he was referencing in his letter but Christoffer wouldn’t tell him.
“My customers were asking me why I was closing and I told them I couldn’t afford the rent so I had to leave. I had to tell the customers something when they asked. I told people the truth. I think that is what made them (management) mad,” Gerszewski said.
Gerszewski said he has always had a good relationship with the other tenants at the mall – he doesn’t believe Christoffer – and feels what is taking place is wrong and very questionable.
Gerszewski said he invested $8,000 into new shelving and increased his inventory after Pastor Paul Knight, Hope Church, told the Grand Forks Herald that no major changes were going to take place as the transition of mall ownership went into effect.
In February, 2015, Knight told the Herald that Hope Church “will expand into some empty spaces, and businesses with month-to-month leases may be moved within the mall to accommodate new businesses. Long-term plans for the mall still have to be ironed out”.
Knight also told the Herald, “We might do some rearranging with some of the nonpermanent tenants, but our goal is to keep everybody where they are.”
Gerszewski said he relied upon that published information when he invested thousands of dollars into his business, and projects he is now going to lose about $20,000 because there is no way he can liquidate his inventory in such a small amount of time.
“I’m going to donate a lot of my inventory to the St. Michael’s Catholic School,” he said.
Gerszewski said he spoke with Knight about the situation to express his concerns. “I told the pastor what was going on and I told him it’s “not very Christian” and he just chuckled. He said it has nothing to do with the Church”.
“NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CHURCH”
In the February, 2015 article in the Herald, Knight said, “The goal really isn’t to be mall managers; the goal is to be a church”.
“A separate limited liability company has been formed to oversee the mall, so the part of the building that’s not a church will not be tax-exempt, Knight said. Current mall management will stay in place for now,” the Herald reported.
Knight’s statements in the Herald appear to create the impression that efforts have been taken to separate Hope Church from the day-to-day business management of the Mall.
But a careful assessment of documents shows something different and indicates Knight is in charge of everything.
The Limited Liability Company (LLC) that oversees the mall is Land of Hope LLC., and was filed with the North Dakota Secretary of State on October 3, 2014.
The Registered Agent for the LLC is Keith Becker, associate pastor, Hope Church.
The Church voted to proceed with the sale on February 10, 2015, which was then announced the next day in the Herald.
While the Herald reported in February, 2015 that “current mall management will stay in place for now” it does not specifically identify the managers.
However, by October, 2015, documents show it was all being run by individuals at Hope Church. If there was a change after the February 15 article in the Herald it is not known when that change took place.
The LLC that is now mall management had been in place since October, 2014, which is something Knight knew when he was interviewed by the Herald in February, 2015.
It is not known why Knight and the Herald were vague about the mall’s management.
On October 10, 2015 Write Into Action emailed Knight and the Hope Church elders regarding the situation with Gerszewski.
“I would be very willing to meet with you and the mall management regarding this story,” Knight said.
Write Into Action replied and asked Knight for the contact information for the mall’s management.
Knight did not respond again.
Perhaps that’s because in all reality; Knight is the mall management.
Documents obtained by Write Into Action, which include a Lease and Eviction Letter, confirm that the mall manager is Louis Christoffer.
On the Facebook page of Louis Christoffer is a photo of Knight, along with a link to the February, 2015 Herald story announcing “Hope Church to Buy Grand Cities Mall”.
“I am blessed and proud to be part of a church who is willing to step out of the boat and trust in God!!,” Christoffer commented above the photo.
Another photo on Christoffer’s Facebook page shows Knight baptizing Christoffer in a tank.
GRAND FORKS POLICE DEPARTMENT
Gerszewski said when talked to Christoffer about the alleged rumors going around the mall, he (Gerszewski) assured Christoffer he’d never said the things Christoffer was alleging.
“He told me he’s been a police officer for many years and he knows what’s going on,” Gerszewski said.
The continued mentioning of police by Christoffer bothered Gerszewski.
“He keeps bringing up that this police officer thing. I don’t care if he has been police officer,” Gerszewski said.
Various articles by the Herald and Valley News refer to Grand Forks Police officer Louis Christoffer.
PASTOR PAUL KNIGHT
Documents show the Grand Cities Mall is overseen by Land of Hope LLC, which is registered with the State of North Dakota to Keith Becker, associate pastor, Hope Church.
The letterhead on the eviction notice letter given to Gerszewski is Land of Hope LLC., and signed by Louis Christoffer, mall manager, Hope Church.
Paul Knight is the pastor of Hope Church.
Write Into Action will continue to monitor this developing story.