The Washington Post

Furstenberg rejects Dupont Circle bakery location

Mark Furstenberg, pictured in his home kitchen, is still searching for a location for his next bakery. (Gordon Beall for The Washington Post)

“It was a really long process,” Furstenberg said about the nearly year-long attempt to negotiate a lease with the New York-based Vornado Realty Trust. “From their perspective, I was a high-risk person.”

Which might explain why, according to Furstenberg, Vornado required that he put $500,000 in escrow as he started to build out the space at 1825 Connecticut Ave. NW in the Universal Building South.

What’s more, the real estate firm apparently wanted Furstenberg to personally guarantee the entire lease, meaning the baker would be on the hook for 10 years’ worth of rent even if his bakery and breakfast/lunch shop failed or if he transferred the lease to another business. Furstenberg said Vornado eventually backed down from that demand, instead asking for a “one-year rolling guarantee” after he had been in business for three years.

“I don’t want to work with them,” Furstenberg said this morning via phone. “I’ve learned by difficult lesson that if a landlord is hard to deal with when you’re in negotiations, he’s likely going to be hard to deal with as a tenant.”

A spokeswoman for Vornado said it is a matter of policy not to comment on such matters.

“By the end of the lease negotiations, there was nothing inconsistent with other deals in the marketplace,” said Lee Engle, who served as Furstenberg’s broker for the deal.

So why then did Furstenberg walk away? Engle didn’t know for sure. ”Perhaps frustration with the lengthy process,” he said.

At this point, Furstenberg has no fall-back options for another location. He’s scouted spots on Capitol Hill and Adams Morgan but is leaning toward partnering with an established restaurateur rather than venturing out on his own.

“I don’t want to run a place anymore,” said the 74-year-old baker. “I’ve gotten too old to care about running things. I just want to bake bread and make desserts.”

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.


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