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Just before closing time, Bill Mounts strolls past the bare shelves of Euro Market to the check-out stand. Mounts, night manager of the beleaguered upscale grocery, spies a rumpled dollar bill on the floor. This dollar could save the store," jokes Mounts, as he grabs the bill and hands it to the cashier.
Mounts' dark humor underlines the hard times that have fallen on Euro Market. In the past six months, half the store's 100 employees have been laid off. Those still working have twice had to wait for paychecks. The store hasn't ordered groceries since November. The only sections the store restocks are the Ôperishables"-the produce, meat and deli departments.
The shelves are so bare, says assistant manager Pam Simms, Customers are always saying they feel like they're shopping in Russia."
Euro Market owner Jean Laurent Andreani, the young French millionaire touted just two years ago as Phoenix's richest man, has put the grocery on the market. Two out-of-town buyers are negotiating with Andreani to buy the store, according to his Phoenix attorney, Michael LaVelle.
If Euro Market is going to sell, he's not interested in putting money into it before that happens," LaVelle says.
The barren shelves are quite a comedown for a store that has been a yuppie mecca since it opened in April 1988, offering a dazzling array of gourmet coffee beans, fresh cheeses and fine wines.
Back in the good old days-like in 1989, when the store registered sales of $7 million-shopping at Euro Market was a social event. During our heyday, people would bring their out-of-town guests to look at the store," says night manager Mounts.
The store was turned out with a sophisticated French-country decor. Groceries were displayed on wooden armoires. Wood flooring decorated the wine aisle.
It had wide aisles and no end- displays, ever," says Joe Nicoli, the store's former wine merchant. Everything was designed to look very crisp, very clean, very neat. No clutter."
Customers used to call Stephen Powell, the head chef at the Euro Market Deli, for recipe consultations. Unfortunately, now they call up and ask if we have ingredients," Powell says.
Part of the decline of Euro Market can be traced to Andreani's headline- grabbing divorce from his wife, Marie France Andreani, in 1990, says Guy Coscas, Andreani's former business partner. News of the Andreanis' divorce was splashed on the front pages of the Arizona Republic in 1990, as the couple squabbled over a $200,000 set of custom luggage and car phones for their Rolls-Royce and Mercedes.
Marie Andreani received a temporary settlement of $47,500 per month, reported to be the largest court-ordered support payment ever awarded in Arizona. Citing the couple's lifestyle of lavish splendor," Maricopa County Court Commissioner John J. Trombino said he thought Jean Laurent Andreani capable and able" to pay the amount.
After the divorce, he don't see anything clear," says the French-born Coscas, who ran the French Corner with Andreani. In 1988, the two men bought Uptown Plaza, and later that year, opened the Euro Market there. He don't like Phoenix anymore. Everything is for sale."
Coscas split with his business partner two years ago because of his continuing friendship with Andreani's ex-wife. Coscas now is co-owner of Christopher's, an expensive French restaurant.
Andreani's racing stable is also on the block, says his lawyer Michael LaVelle. Andreani has sold about half of his 100 race horses.
It's certainly the case of a rich man changing his focus," LaVelle says.
The decline seems to have come quickly. Euro Market was making a profit two years ago when Coscas sold his interest to Andreani, the businessman says. The store was making a profit as recently as May, says store director Joe Simms. That's when the company that owns Euro Market, Andreani's Crossland Industries, Inc., ordered cost-cutting measures that have left the shelves empty.
Although neither Andreani nor Crossland Industries officials returned telephone calls to New Times, decisions by the parent company seem to be behind the problems at Euro Market.
We're owned by a very sick company," Simms says. The profits went to the company. What happened after that, I don't know."
Joe Nicoli, the market's wine merchant until he was laid off last month, agrees. Really, it's nothing to do with the store," he says. The store is making money. It's the owner. It's all a cash-flow problem."
All attorney LaVelle would say is, Crossland isn't like a company run for profit. It's a rich man's corporation."
The shaky condition of Euro Market adds to existing problems at Andreani's Uptown Plaza. Six stores have either closed down or left the shopping center in the last six months, and a 1989 addition of another 17 stores on the northeast corner has never been rented.
News that Andreani is selling his horses is one ray of hope for Tom Eggleston Jr. He is treasurer of the merchants' association at Uptown Plaza, and a partner in the Towne Square clothing store located there. That should be a help to us, help to focus his attention," Eggleston says.
But the store has already lost some of its most loyal customers. Beverly Graham, who lives nearby, was a faithful Euro Market shopper from the day the store opened. It had everything, and it felt wonderful," she says. Even if I couldn't afford to buy anything, it still felt wonderful."
Now, she says, It's like going to a cemetery.