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[whitespace] Rinconada Pharmacy receives notice to vacate the premises

Los Gatos--After 30 years of doing business on Pollard Road, the last drug store in the South Bay that still mixes its own ingredients may shut its doors as early as this week, as a long legal battle between its owners and the landlord comes to a head.

Los Angeles-based Duckett Wilson Management Company, which owns half of the Rinconada Hills Shopping Center, gave Rinconada Pharmacy owners David and Vivian Matsuo their 30-day notice in early May. Rinconada Pharmacy has been renting on a month-to-month basis.

David Matsuo says Duckett Wilson is trying to push his business out, so the company can bring in a chain drug store and hike up the rent, and his lawyer is fighting the eviction in court.

"There's a chance we could end up in the street here," Matsuo says. "It's obvious they're trying to eliminate us."

Matsuo says he might be able to move the store, but if it stays closed for a long time, it could prove fatal to the business. "With a pharmacy you just can't close your doors. People have to get their medicine somewhere, and then you lose all your clientele."

Property manager Tom Wilson, however, says the Matsuos' lease expired in August, and after his company made two attempts to keep the pharmacy in the shopping center, he never heard anything, so he went looking for another tenant.

When he found that Longs was in the market to open a new store in the area, Wilson says that company signed a letter of intent to take over the space after Rinconada Pharmacy moved out. After that, according to Wilson, Matsuo signed and returned the company's second offer, which had already been rescinded.

If the Matsuos don't close the store, Wilson says he may lock the doors and let the police handle it.

The Matsuos' attorney, Anthony Trepel, plans to fight Duckett-Wilson every step of the way in court.

Trepel filed a lawsuit against Duckett-Wilson that seeks to reinstate the pharmacy's lease, and says that Duckett-Wilson's attempt to evict the pharmacy by filing an unlawful detainer in municipal court is an end run around the superior court case. Now, Trepel has filed to have the two cases combined.

Trepel says the unlawful detainer is a legal tool frequently used by landlords to get rid of tenants that aren't paying their rent, which he says the Matsuos have continued to pay all along.

Duckett-Wilson's attorney, Ken Kotarski, says he's not trying an end run, but rather that Trepel filed the first lawsuit (in December) to make a claim on the property in anticipation of the pharmacy's eventual eviction.

"Once we filed the unlawful detainer, all of a sudden there was this interest in the old case," he said.

The unlawful detainer hearing is set for June 1.

Longs applied to the town for the conditional-use permit it needs to open the new store last year. The application wasn't deemed complete by the Development Review Committee, and the town hasn't heard anything since the DRC made that decision April 13.

DRC members said that Longs needed to come back with a master plan for the entire shopping center, a complete parking inventory and name some kind of community benefit. According to the Planning Department, Safeway, which has a store in the same shopping center and owns the other half of the property, is planning to remodel that store.
Jeff Kearns

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Web extra to the June 3-9, 1999 issue of Metro.

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