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Christina’s Former Owners Keeping Reputations Intact Through 'Difficult Situation'

Despite legal disputes and financial concerns, Chris Spinazzola and Marjorie Clapprood – former owners of Christina's Fireside Grille – continue to act in the best interest of their former clients and employees.

The reputations of Chris Spinazzola and Marjorie Clapprood as outstanding business owners in Foxborough have preceded them despite an ongoing financial dispute that forced a change in ownership at this past June.

“The partners in business and in life,” as Clapprood says, are the former owners of the Route 1 function hall in Foxborough and attended last week’s public hearing for Christina’s liquor license transfer at the Foxborough Board of Selectmen meeting. The transfer involved MJ Holding Corporation, which Spinazzola and Clapprood are principle owners of to D&N Corporations and the property’s landlord, Nicholas Panagopolous.

The dispute between the two parties has been ongoing for the past 18 months, some of which became public during the liquor license transfer's public hearing – forcing Spinazzola and Clapprood to speak up.

“We have reputations,” said Spinazzola. “We would like to be in this business somewhere down the road … it may not ever be in Foxborough, frankly, and it’s going to take us a long time to recover from this financially. … “We are not here to hurt anybody. We are here to protect our names and reputations as well.”

And that’s exactly what they have done in the six weeks following the change in ownership at Christina’s.

that she and her husband have tried to help former employees find jobs and have responded to nearly all of their former clients who booked events at Christina’s asking about their deposits and status of their events, despite significant financial loss.

 “It has been a very difficult situation for all of us,” Spinazzola said. “We have lost our life savings.”

Said Clapprood: “We took every dime that we have in this world and borrowed against our home to become 50 percent owners [of MJ Holding Corporation].”

The root of the financial disagreement is based on money owed in rent versus capital improvements to the property. Panagopolous believes Spinazzola and Clapprood owe him $550,000 in rent while Clapprood says the landlord owes her and Spinazzola money for capital improvements the co-owners made to the 2 Washington St. facility over the course of 12 years of operation.

"[Panagopoulos] wanted more rent and he was not willing to pay for general capital improvements meaning basic maintenance of the major parts of the building that are the landlord’s responsibility," Clapprood told Foxborough Patch in July.

Despite the significant financial loss and dispute with Panagopolous, which has been brought to court, Spinazzola and Clapprood have put the concerns of their former employees and clients ahead of their own; trying to help Panagopolous move forward with the immediate business.

“On July 9th, we submitted all the information about [client] deposits to [Nicholas Panagopolous, the property’s landlord] for the contracted events,” said Spinazzola, former co-owner of Christina’s Fireside Grille. “We did our best to cooperate every step of the way with every court decree as well as everything we could possibly do to make this as painless on our employees and our depositors – brides, grooms, Bat Mitzvahs and so on. That’s what we’ve done the entire time.”

The dispute has also been hard on Panagopolous financially, as his attorney, Dean Plaikus, told the Board of Selectmen throughout the public hearing process that his client has paid nearly $185,000 in liabilities and described the situation as one that will result in “no winners.”

Spinazzola agreed with that statement.

“I think Mr. Plaikus said it best … there’s only losers in this last 18 months,” Spinazzola said.

In addition to the financial dispute, there’s also been the issue of honoring deposits of clients since the change in ownership occurred in June.

Spinazzola and Clapprood said they have done everything to see their former clients’ deposits be honored by the new ownership at Christina’s and their events be held without any problems. But that hasn’t been the case, according to the former owners.

“We have e-mails [last week] from brides who have still been told their event will not happen without them depositing again or making further payments again,” Spinazolla said. I’m not sure where that’s coming from or who is telling the brides.”

Said Clapprood: “This woman e-mails me and calls me and is crying and asking where is her $7,200 [because the new ownership] won’t honor it. We asked but we haven’t received an answer.”

Plaikus told the Board of Selectmen at last week’s public hearing that Panagopolous has been honoring the deposits and functions for all the clients “he knows about.”

Clapprood disagrees.

“I’d be happy to give names of brides that I have spoken with as recently as 3 p.m. [last Tuesday],” she said.

Regardless of the outcome of these disputes, Spinazolla and Clapprood remain committed to helping the clients that chose to hold events at Christina’s because they are true to their word and care about the people whom trusted them.

“[We] have to answer to those brides and grooms [that made deposits at Christina’s] … they’re calling us,” Clapprood said. “We are the ones that they looked at across the table and we are the ones that helped them with the menus and we are the ones that feel so responsible. It’s just not right.”

. Spinazzola and Clapprood had asked the board during the public comment portion of the public hearing not to transfer the license because they were not included in the process and no agreement was made between the two corporations.

“This [transfer] is very, very, very, very tarnished and we don’t want our names to be associated with the passage of this application,” Clapprood said at last week’s hearing. … “We weren’t even provided with the courtesy of a copy of what I understand is now the third application for transfer. I don’t know who’s on it. I don’t know who you are saying the owners are. I don’t know what you are representing to be the liabilities.”

Despite those concerns, the selectmen moved forward with the transfer under the following conditions:

  1. All police detail bills paid up to date
  2. All town attorney fees as a result of public hearing paid for
  3. D&N Corporation be held liable for all function/event deposits Christina’s has and is presented with to date

Panagopolous agreed to the conditions.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Spinazzola and Clapprood graciously thanked the selectmen for the opportunity to state their case and wished the best for future business at the function hall.

“We feel strongly that going forward, we wish nothing but the best for the brides and grooms and for the people that have the events at 2 Washington St.” Spinazzola said. “We hope it goes well.”

Christina’s former owners summed up the overall situation as a disagreement that simply could not be resolved.

“Mr. Panagopolous has owned that building for a long time and we cannot force him to do a lease with us,” Spinazzola said. “But we relied on our conversations and our back-and-forth negotiations through May to continue there for a long time and to fulfill our obligations, which would have been to buy Mr. [Mike] Intoccia out of that company [MJ Holding Corporation], to move forward as the principle owners and a long-term agreement with Mr. Panagopolous. It did not happen for whatever reason.”

Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos said in the end, it’s a dispute between two private businesses, both of which have “excellent” reputations in town.

“It is unfortunate that the business has gotten to the point in which it has gotten,” Paicos said. “I haven’t any idea how or why it got here. What I will say is that the Chris and Marjorie folks have a strong, outstanding reputation and that I hope that [reputation] has not been diminished by anything that has been said in these proceedings. …

“I met with Mr. Panagopolous [last week] and he also has an absolutely impeccable and wonderful reputation as a business owner and is an extraordinarily responsible operator of the liquor license. He is as fine a gentleman as I’ve had the privilege of meeting in my life.”

Dennis Naughton August 14, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Chris Spinazzola and Marjorie Claprood are good people. I find their version of events the more credible. I will miss Christina's Fireside Grille, the best venue in Foxborough for reasonably priced good food in a cozy atmosphere, and wish Spinazzola and Claprood the best.

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