A family that has owned a Falmouth pizza shop for more than four decades says their landlord sought changes in ownership that are forcing the business out.

The Sotiropoulos family has owned Falmouth House of Pizza for 42 years. Antonia Sotiropoulos, who started the shop with her husband in 1977, said the couple hoped to pass the shop on to their three sons.

But when they sat down with landlord Jonathon Cohen to discuss a lease extension for their location in the Falmouth Shopping Center, they said, he insisted that one son, George Sotiropoulos, be named the sole owner of the shop. When Antonia and her sons said no, she said, Cohen filed papers to evict them.

Cohen, who bought the shopping center with developer Joseph Soley in March 2018, did not respond to requests for comment. Cohen and Soley have plans to redevelop the center, but have run into some opposition from residents, who are concerned about the size of the project they envision.

The Sotiropouloses said Cohen never gave them a reason for the ownership change and they have been ordered to leave the store in the Falmouth Shopping Center at the end of this month.

“It’s a weird, bizarre thing,” said Portland lawyer Harold Pachios, who has known the family for nearly 50 years. “I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t understand it.”

Antonia Sotiropoulos said the pizza shop will be closed the last week of April to give the family time to move out equipment. Lee Sotiropoulos said the family is looking for land to buy and build a new shop.

A Falmouth House of Pizza customer reads a notice on the door stating that after 42 years in the same location in the Falmouth Shopping Center, the pizza establishment will be ousted. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

George Sotiropoulos said he will reopen the shop in the Falmouth Shopping Center under his sole ownership in mid-May. He said he hasn’t decided on the name, but is leaning toward FHOP to retain customers of the current shop.

Pachios, who was helping the couple with succession planning, said the owners have never been late with a rent payment and had already agreed to an increase in rent in the lease extension. But then, he said, Cohen asked that George be named the sole owner. George has managed the pizza shop for about  a decade and the other two brothers are involved in different businesses, but Antonia said she and her husband wanted the shop to go to their three sons.

“It seems like a hostile takeover,” said Lee Sotiropoulos, one of the brothers who would have been a co-owner of the shop under his parents’ plan. He runs Antonia’s, a restaurant in Freeport that the family started, while the third brother, Nino, runs a Falmouth convenience store.

George also said he hopes that the family rifts that have developed will be healed.

“It’s very painful,” Antonia said.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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