Fairhaven Pizzeria’s New Owner Responds to Gift Card Outcry
When Zakariah Abdelmalik took over Yia Yia's Pizza Cafe on Sconticut Neck Road in Fairhaven, he was ecstatic to be the new owner of a successful business on the Neck.
The Tsonis family had owned and operated the established pizza shop for nearly two decades and had a loyal customer base. The Tsonis family even handed over their secret Yia Yia's recipes. It seemed like a sure shot.
His first day was March 17, less than a month ago.
One part of the transition that Abdelmalik hadn't planned for, however, has been the gift cards that were sold before the sale of the business. He says he knew that there were a number of gift cards out there, but the previous owners didn't have any idea how many. He says that within the first couple of weeks, he honored more than $200 in gift certificates that were purchased from the previous owners.
That's when he decided to stop accepting the old gift cards.
Dozens of comments in a private Fairhaven Facebook group offered their opinions about whether or not that was the right move. As you might imagine, not everyone agreed with the decision. Some were so turned off by the refusal to honor the cards, they vowed never to return to the business.
"I can't afford this," Abdelmalik told Fun 107 on Monday. "I'm a brand new business owner and all of the prices on things I need to buy have already gone up so much because of inflation. I couldn't keep giving away the food. I haven't sold any gift cards at all, but have had to redeem a bunch of them."
The previous owner of Yia Yia's, John Tsonis, says that when he and his wife decided to sell the business they stopped selling gift cards. "That was right around Christmastime," says Tsonis. "Most of the cards that we've sold have been redeemed already. I have no idea where all of those extra gift cards are coming from."
State law does not mandate new business owners to honor the gift cards from previous owners. A memo from the state's consumer affairs division reads, "If a store switches ownership or is bought out by another business, it’s best to ask if the gift card or prepaid services will be honored. Many businesses will want to keep you as a customer and will honor gift cards or prepaid services for a set amount of time."
The Facebook outcry became so loud that Abdelmalik's wife Suzy responded on Monday. Yia Yia's will now honor gift cards sold by the previous owners until May 15. The offer will apply only to pick-ups.
Should Yia Yia's honor the gift cards? That is up for discussion.
Are they required to honor them by law? The answer is no.