Ya Ya’s House of Southern Cuisine formally closed their Schenectady location the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 1, and owners (“Mr.”) Marc and Amanda (“Ya Ya”) Thompson are still in the process of looking for a permanent Schenectady home. Meanwhile they are in the process of opening a satellite location in Canajoharie.
To cheers and cries of “thank you” and “goodbye,” the crowd gathered at Ya Ya’s came together in order to partake of one last dinner provided by the Thompson family. Marie Sgarlata, the owner of the premises at 170 Lafayette Street, who is evicting the Thompsons, was also present. She was there, reportedly, to ensure that the Thompsons did not install a grease trap, as requested by code enforcement — thereby giving her grounds to evict the Thompsons immediately from the premises.
As previously reported in The Alt, despite gaining a phenomenal following, Ya Ya’s has been evicted by owner of the premises of 170 Lafayette Street, Marie Sgarlata. Sgarlata’s stated reasoning for declining to renew the Thompsons’ lease involves Amanda’s decision to run Ya Ya’s as a soul food restaurant, with the amount of frying that soul food entails.
The Thompsons suspect that there is an element of racial bias at work, as Sgarlata knew of their plans to run a soul food restaurant before signing the lease. Sgarlata is white and the Thompsons are black.
Negotiations over extending the lease continued until the last possible moment. The Thompsons say they offered to rent Sgarlata’s adjacent vacant storefront, thereby expanding the restaurant, and putting to rest Sgarlata’s fears that the current premises were too small for a business of Ya Ya’s size. At one point Sgarlata offered a lease extension of a year, so long as the Thompsons’ paid an increased monthly rent, but this offer was soon rescinded.
All negotiations failed as the eviction date grew closer.
“I’m over it. I’m done,” Amanda told The Alt, referring to her relationship with Sgarlata. The Thompsons are looking forward to establishing a new business relationship with a new landlord — one who demonstrates more flexibility.
As for now, the Thompsons continue to serve food every Thursday and Friday, from 11 AM to 7 PM, at their church, the New Day Christian Empowerment Center, located at 1259 Chrisler Ave. in Schenectady. They are also looking to open a satellite location in Canajoharie, where they are currently looking for local staff to help operate their restaurant.
update: dates added