Landlord: ‘There had been safety issues’ at Sam’s Super Samwiches for years before they left Homewood spot

Local News

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee/Courtesy of the Southern Foodways Alliance

Christmas Day
December 25 2021 12:00 am

HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — Following the announcement that a beloved Homewood restaurant would be leaving its longtime perch along 18th Street South, questions have been raised regarding why they decided to leave.

On Wednesday, the Graphos family announced that the restaurant would be moving from the place they’ve called home since the 1970s. The news came a month after longtime owner Sam Graphos died following heart and kidney problems. Before his death, the restaurant had been a mainstay of the Homewood community and had been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Delicious Destinations.”

In their statement, the family said the decision was made after the landlord of the building decided not to renew their lease.

On Thursday, landlord Ken Shaia gave the following statement to CBS 42 regarding the restaurant leaving 18th Street South:

“We all loved Sammy, he had an incredible personality, made the best chili cheese dog and was a fixture of the Homewood community.

“Notwithstanding rampant speculation about the Lease, my family, as the landlord, has remained silent out of respect for Sammy’s family. However, everyone should know that closing of the store really had nothing to do with Sammy’s passing. There had been safety issues at the shop for years.  The electrical problems came to a head on September 4th, 2021 and set in motion a chain of events that led to a government required shut down – all of which was in motion before Sammy passed on October  5, 2021. Over the last five years, the Shaia family made substantial financial investments and worked with the Graphos family to make safety improvements to the building. We understand that the Graphos family did not reach an agreement with local government. On October 25, 2021, the Graphos family attorney sent us the attached Surrender of Lease. I have also attached some of the code violation materials. The Graphos family made the ultimate choice between making the repairs and closing the shop.” 

-Ken Shaia

Shaia provided the notice of lease termination:

Additionally, Shaia also provided emails he had received from fire officials regarding violations the building over the years.

When reached for comment, Graphos’ son, Ted, disagreed with Shaia’s statement.

“That’s a bit of a skewed opinion of what happened,” he said.

Specifically, Ted Graphos said the family was given three options after the restaurant closed due to electrical issues September 25: walk away from the lease, perform repairs on the building, or be evicted.

“Those repairs included were far beyond the scope of any fire marshal statement,” Graphos said. “Our decision was based on a business decision, taking into consideration the repairs that the Shaias wanted us to do.”

Graphos said that ultimately, the lease was not going to be renewed and that he now wants to move on.

“I don’t want to spend too much time thinking how we got here,” he said. “I just want to move forward.”

Graphos said the support from the community has been overwhelming and that they have already received several offers to look at spaces to move the business to. Although he and the family are still weighing their options on what to do next, they are planning on getting back to business.

“We feel an obligation from the community to reopen,” Graphos said. “We feel the obligation to my father’s legacy to reopen and that’s what we plan on doing.”

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