I-Team 10 Investigation: Main St. merchants not paid

Posted at: 07/05/2013 5:37 PM
Updated at: 07/05/2013 6:16 PM

Imagine waiting two months for your paycheck. That's how long it's been since the production crew for The Amazing Spider-Man left town and some business owners say they're still waiting to be paid.

Spider-Man closed down a portion of Main Street to film and promised to take care of the impacted businesses. But did the company keep it's end of the bargain?

Many of the merchants say they make most of their money the first week of the month because that's when many people get paid. It was the beginning of May when production of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 shut down Main Street downtown. Some businesses say they have still not recovered financially, getting little or no help from the movie's producers.

For ten days in May, Main Street Rochester became a Hollywood movie studio, complete with police chases, car crashes and a visit from spidey himself. But two months later, some downtown businesses say they still have not been paid for the losses they incurred while the street was shut down.

Fairth Sonmez said, “Financially, this month, I had to go get some loans to pay my rent, ask a couple of my friends for money, stuff like that, but we lost a lot of business."

Sonmez owns the T-Mobile store on the corner of Main Street and Clinton Avenue. He says they were promised they'd be compensated for their losses, but got a check for just $1,000, far less that what he says he lost.

Sonmez said, “Then when they cut us a check out, it was about 10% of daily sales, which got me disappointed. When I called the guys back, they said, 'oh, we ran out of money. We don't have no more money for nobody' and just pretty much said, 'go on your way.'”

Next door at Big Deal Fashions, the same. The merchant says he may have to close.

Ali Algrami said, “Just to give us $1,000. It's not worth it. I don't want it, but I have to. I have to.”

Others got nothing at all. Ibrahim Kocak owns Midtown Tailors. He says he lost about $2,000 while Main Street was shut down for production. Ibrahim speaks little English, but his frustration is easily detectable. His son says while his father has been offered nothing, another business in the same building did get compensated.

Ugor Kocak said, "He lost a decent amount of income and had to cut a little bit and struggle through it, but we were able to get by, but very frustrating. He just runs a business and not being able to get paid what you're supposed to."

All of the merchants say they have reached out to City Hall, but have received little help. A spokesperson for the mayor's office says the negotiations were a private matter, saying “The city acted as a contract point for businesses and the producer. Any recompense was a direct negotiation between the two and the city only played a connector role.”

Valarie Akinlawon said, "At first, it was hard getting money, but they did end up compensating me for my losses."

Valarie Akinlawon owns Metro Market. She says it took a nasty letter, but she eventually got $2,500 hundred dollars to cover her losses.

Akinlawon said, "My daughter is an excellent writer and she wrote Columbia Pictures telling them to take all images of my business out of the film. So I guess that was really threatening so they decided to pay up."

I-Team 10 did reach out to Columbia Pictures for comment, but have not yet heard back from anyone at the production company. I-Team 10 will continue to track this story and let you know if anything changes for these struggling merchants.