A sign went up in the front window at Puzzle Zoo on February 18, accusing the Community United Methodist Church of Pacific Palisades of kicking the business out with only 30 days’ notice.
The Methodist Church owns the building on Sunset Boulevard (across from Ralphs) that includes five stores: Festa Insurance (15129), Palisades Kitchen & Bath (15127), Palisades Picture Framing (15125), Shoefits Shoe Repair (15123) and Puzzle Zoo (15121).
Today, a second accusatory sign went up in the Puzzle Zoo window, asking church officials: “Do you have a contractual right to destroy us? Yes. Morally, should you????”
Circling the News spoke by phone with the owner of Puzzle Zoo, Jay Demircift, on February 22. When asked why he was being asked to leave, he replied, “I don’t know the exact reason.”
He said that his store had been closed for five months during the pandemic and that he had tried to negotiate with the Methodist about the rent.
Demircift, who owns three other toy stores (two in Santa Monica and one in the South Coast Plaza), said “I’ve been in the Palisades for 21 years and six years in this location.” He purchased Party Pizazz in 2016, when former owner Marlee Dressen decided to retire.
Puzzle Zoo was originally located on Swarthmore, north of Sunset, when Caruso purchased the land to build his mall. Demircift said, “Caruso gave two years notice and now I only have 30 days.”
Demircift has owned as many as eight stores at one time and said he had never been treated like this.
A new toy store is rumored to open on Via de la Paz in the space where the Sew Chateau and Katie O’Neill’s Art Studio were located. The Sew Chateau closed, and O’Neill moved to 15330 Antioch.
Demircift speculated that the Via building was owned by the church, which is why they had given him notice to leave on Sunset. CTN told him that the building at 835 Via does not belong to the church, and that it’s currently for sale.
CTN reached out to the Methodist Church, and the board of trustees provided the following response on February 23: “This is a private business matter between the property owner (the Church) and the tenant (Puzzle Zoo).
“Like any property owner, the Church has the right (and the fiduciary duty as stewards of the parishioners) to do what it believes is the proper course of action with the property where Puzzle Zoo is located.”
The Board told CTN that two proposed lease extensions were sent to the tenant, but no action had been taken by the tenant.
“After further and careful consideration, the Church’s Board of Trustees are required to do what we believe is in the best interests of the Church, as the property owner.”
The Board, Pastor and members of the church also noted, “We trust the community, of which we have been a member for nearly 100 years, will respect our decision and not engage or indulge in any unfounded rumors.”
Yesterday, a resident walking by the Puzzle Zoo sign commented, “That’s really not a neighborly thing to put in the window.”