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BOARDMAN Auction wouldn't affect store, owner says



Published: Sat, September 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

An owner said the business is strong and will continue operating, even if the building is sold to a new owner.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

BOARDMAN -- The property and building where Rulli Bros. Market operates in Boardman might be sold in a court-ordered bankruptcy auction next month, but the business owner says the store itself isn't going anywhere.

"There's been no disruption of business. We're doing fine, and we're holding our heads up," said Anthony Rulli, who holds majority ownership in the longtime grocery and Italian foods specialty store. "The business is here, and it will continue to be here."

The real estate sale stems from the personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed by Rulli and his wife, Karen, in February 2000.

Not part of case: Rulli Bros. Market is financially strong and thriving and is not part of the case, according to Jeffrey Adler, Rulli's attorney.

Rulli's brother Frank owns another, separate grocery store, Rulli Bros. Austintown, which also is not a part of the case.

Rulli and his brothers Nick and Frank Rulli share equal ownership of the real estate upon which the Boardman store is located at 5780 South Ave., a partnership called the FAN company. Rulli pays rent to the partnership, which then pays dividends to the partners.

Judge William Bodoh of the federal bankruptcy court in Youngstown ordered that the Boardman Rulli market building and property be sold at auction as part of a plan to reorganize Anthony and Karen Rulli's debts.

If the auction goes forward, court documents say, proceeds of the sale will be divided equally, with Anthony's share to go to his estate's creditors and the other two-thirds going to Nick and Frank Rulli. Judge Bodoh set the minimum bid at $600,000, based on an appraisal by the Mahoning County auditor.

Auction date set: George Roman Auctioneers and Realty will conduct the real estate auction, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 4. The successful bidder will be required to submit a 10 percent deposit at the time of the auction, with the balance due when the bankruptcy court approves the sale.

Anthony Rulli has filed an appeal to block the auction in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Adler said the appeal argues that the court cannot order sale of the real estate because it is not an asset of Anthony and Karen Rulli's estate.

Anthony and Karen Rulli "enjoyed financial prosperity" until 1994, court records say, when they attempted to expand their business interests. The couple became partners in a corporation called A.R.K. Foods and opened a grocery store in Howland Township that was known as Howland IGA.

Howland IGA went out of business after about a year and a half, records show, unable to compete with a nearby Giant Eagle. Anthony Rulli also invested in 1994 in another business, Ohio Auto Group Inc., which also failed.

What's in records: Court records show Anthony and Karen Rulli had signed personally on some debts for the IGA, were determined to be responsible for the store's federal income tax obligation, and were named as the guarantor on many of Ohio Auto Group's debts as well.

The couple faced "a severe financial crisis," court records state, and was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection when Sky Bank began foreclosure actions on their Canfield home. Their reorganization plan, submitted last month to Judge Bodoh, also includes selling a rental property they own in Canfield to help pay off outstanding debts.

vinarsky@vindycom




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