Showdown at Brinton’s as owner tries to change locks

By CHRIS COUNTS  The Carmel Pine Cone

Published: February 3, 2012

THE ABRUPT closure of Brinton’s — which was announced Jan. 22 to its employees and went into effect the following day — took an unexpected turn this week when a Monterey County Sheriff’s deputy was called to enforce a court order requiring that the store be vacated by 3 p.m. on Jan. 31.

“The owners refused to leave,” said attorney Tony Lombardo, who is representing the Prim Family Partnership in Nevada, which owns the Carmel Rancho shopping center. “We went to change the locks, and there was a big scene. They tried to block our entrance. We had to call the sheriff to carry out the court order.”

Sgt. Mike Burns confirmed the sheriff’s office responded to the dispute. He said the owners asked for more time to remove some property from the store. “An arrangement was made to give them a little more time,” Burns said.

According to Lombardo, Brinton’s owner, Richard Brinton, was on scene during the incident.

Prim Family Partnership, meanwhile, is in negotiations with a possible tenant for the now vacant space in its shopping center, Lombardo confirmed. He described the business as a “general store,” but said it’s too early to release any more details. “The deal isn’t completed,” he said.

Brinton’s was a mainstay of the local retail scene for a half-century. But according to a former employee, the store was in trouble financially. The Prim Family Partnership sued Brinton’s in 2009 for unpaid rent. Meanwhile, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust filed a lawsuit Jan. 27, alleging Brinton’s owes $479,305.68 from an unpaid 2009 loan. Lombardo, meanwhile, said the store was more than $100,000 behind in its rent.

After employees were informed Jan. 22 of the store’s closure, eight filed claims for back wages and vacation pay with the state labor board.

As for the store’s inventory, Lombardo said it is gone.

“The inventory was moved out in the dead of the night last weekend,” he explained. “I don’t know if [Brinton] is planning to open another store.”

Former customers, meanwhile, wonder if they’ll be able to redeem gift certificates issued by Brinton’s as recently as December.

Calls to the Brinton’s residence have gone unanswered, and a message was not returned.