After learning that the Maplewood Concierge Company (MCC) lost out in a New Jersey Transit bidding process and will be forced to vacate the Maplewood Train Station concession it has run since 1998, MCC president Art Christensen is determined to challenge the results.
"I have no intention of leaving without exercising all my rights under the RFP," said Christensen in a phone interview Thursday. "I'm going to appeal in court."
The MCC was one of two companies who submitted a bid to NJ Transit, which holds the lease. This week, NJT awarded the contract to Zeren, LLC, which operates concessions at three other train stations, said Christensen, a local businessman and longtime Maplewood resident.
"[NJT] sent me a notice to quit by May 31," said Christensen, who said he had filed an official complaint with NJT for what he called an "unfair" bidding process that was "arbitrary and capricious."
The concierge offers services for commuters including drop-off/pick up dry cleaning and shoe repair, jitney and other permits, holding packages, hailing taxicabs and connecting customers to businesses and services throughout town.
Christensen said the MCC's goal was to promote local businesses, while Zeren's goal was to "create a chain." He said NJT would not discuss how they came to their decision and that he wants the three parties to sit down together and negotiate. He continued, "If [NJT] had a problem with me, they never told me."
In December, Christensen said the concierge company had been on "life support" but that with more funding it could expand. On Thursday he expressed dismay for the shareholders who originally put up $50,000 to launch the company 14 years ago.
But he is confident he will prevail if he has his day in court. "I will get so much discovery you'll think this is the Benghazi investigation," he said. "They've got a fight on their hands."
After learning of NJT's decision on Wednesday, Christensen fired longtime assistant manager Candy Naraine over what he termed a difference of opinion over how to operate the concession.
"I did fire her after the way she spoke to me," he said. Several years ago Christensen's attempt to evict Joyce Reynolds, who subleased a separate coffee concession from the MCC, led to a court battle that was eventually settled. Reynolds retired at the end of last year.
Since Dec. 31, 2012, MCC's lease has been on a month by month basis.
"This could be a long, drawn out process," said Christensen, who said if he loses he will counter-sue for damages.
"The concierge is a way of life," he said.