In 2021, Z Cycle Shop signed a ten-year lease for its new location at Ninth Avenue and Corona Street — right across the street from its landlord's business, Capitol Hill Liquors.
Now, just a year and a half into that ten-year lease, the bike shop is already facing a demand for compliance or possession from the property owner as tensions between the neighboring business owners have reached a breaking point.
Dimitri Rumschlat, who founded Z Cycle in 2019, moved the business into its new spot in June 2021. Rumschlat had been homeless for a time and previously worked as a dishwasher at the Mercury Cafe. He earned an engineering degree from Metropolitan State University during the first years of Z Cycle’s existence and has dealt with numerous health issues, including heart surgeries and a traumatic brain injury from a car crash just months before he opened.
Rumschlat says he was broke, but chose to grind and make it work.
“It's always been hard work, perseverance and just kicking butt and taking names and being there for people,” he says. “We're known for not just trying to sell people stuff, but making things work rather than trying to run up the bill, and people appreciate that. We've been really community-focused.”
Now, despite all his best efforts, a dispute with his landlord and other issues could mean the community has to find a new space again.
Katina Gatchis — who owns the building — is legally listed as its handler, but it's her son, George Gatchis, who ultimately oversees much of the business operations.
At first the new space seemed great, and Rumschlat says he enjoyed getting to know George.
“He’s been nice. He's been kind of a friend,” Rumschlat says, noting how George gifted the shop beers. “It really started when I put the grates up.”
According to Rumschlat, repeated break-ins at Z Cycle, including two in a span of two weeks — one over Thanksgiving weekend and another on December 11, 2022 — led to his putting metal grates up on his windows. Losses from each break-in totaled upwards of $30,000, he says.
“[Gatchis] screamed at me to not put the grates up,” Rumschlat recalls. “I was like, ‘Okay, okay, I'll stop.’ We got broken into again that day later, and then I said, ‘Fuck it, I'm putting the grates up.’”
According to a legal notice taped to Z Cycle’s window, putting the grates up was a violation of Z Cycle’s lease. The letter, dated February 17, orders Rumschlat to comply with its terms, which include removing the grates — among a long list of other disputes — or turn the property over to the landlord within ten days.
Rumschlat says it’s not fair that he isn’t allowed to place the grates because he has no other way to protect his business.
“I'm too poor,” he says, noting how repeated losses from burglaries and heightened insurance costs with each loss are pushing him to his financial brink.
Z Cycle’s lease is for $6,500 per month, plus annual taxes, with a 3 percent increase each of its ten years, Rumschlat shares. Aside from the grates, Gatchis alleges that Rumschlat has broken other terms of that lease in his quest to transform what was once a restaurant into a bike shop.
“The restaurant he leased to me as a bike shop, I should be able to turn it into a bike shop and not have to keep a restaurant,” Rumschlat says.
The space formerly belonged to a fried chicken joint, which closed in 2017 — leading to another legal confrontation between the Gatchises and tenants. Craig Caldwell, the restaurant owner, suggested that his lease be transferred to Rashad and Zuned Khan, a Muslim father and son who wanted to open an Indian restaurant in the space.
However, Caldwell recorded Katina Gatchis telling him to find Americans to fill the property rather than the Khans, who had immigrated to the United States. That resulted in a lawsuit that was settled out of court, with Gatchis paying Caldwell and the Khans $675,000.
Rumschlat says the Gatchises seemed happy with the prospect of a business other than a restaurant going in the space, but they aren’t allowing him to modify the building to make it actually work as a bike shop. He maintains that every modification he’s made should have been foreseeable when it comes to changing a restaurant into a bike shop, which the Gatchises knew was happening.
“There was like a bunch of fryers,” Rumschlat says. “[George] was like, ‘Sure, get rid of them. They're yours. Everything in here is yours. I don't want it in here.’ He told me that.”
Gatchis’s tune changed, Rumschlat says, after he was told to not come around the shop following comments he made about women that Rumschlat didn't approve of. The legal notice on the window says that any changes — such as removing a cooking hood and industrial coolers — require landlord knowledge and approval, and Rumschlat failed to obtain either.
“I know I’m supposed to get written consent from his mother to do these alterations on the unit, but he was always there, and he never made it seem like I needed to get written consent for anything,” Rumschlat says. “They're right across the street. They've been seeing us pile stuff out back and construction debris going in and out.”
He says George Gatchis was there when the hood and coolers came out, observing the activity and not objecting. The legal notice also says Rumschlat removed an ADA bathroom without landlord consent or approval, and is improperly hosting a coffee and music business in the basement.
According to that notice, Rumschlat’s lease specifies that he “may only use the premises for the sales and repairs of various types of cycles.”
But Rumschlat claims Gatchis knew about those endeavors as well — even accepting free coffee at times, and never objecting until the grates went up outside.
“He says I've damaged them permanently,” Rumschlat explains of the windows he installed the grates on. “I said, ‘Well, I'll replace them in ten years.’”
In addition to the other accusations, Rumschlat also alleges that Gatchis has made threatening comments toward him and his physical safety.
Despite Gatchis’s insistence that Rumschlat isn’t upholding his end of the lease, Rumschlat says the same is the case on Gatchis’s end.
“These threats of ‘We will possess everything in here [or] we're gonna sue you for back rent for the next nine years and to replace the bathroom, the windows, coolers and the hoods.’ It's like, dude, you haven't even fixed the leaky ceiling that's been flooding my unit since day one,” Rumschlat contends.
He says the basement has flooded because of a leaky ceiling that has also caused black mold to grow, which should be the landlord’s responsibility to fix.
Gatchis’s lawyer, Damon Semmens, declined to comment for his client, noting that the goal is to resolve the matter out of court. Rumschlat says he doesn’t plan to vacate the space anytime soon.
“I'm not evacuating,” he says. “I'm not leaving, not freaking out, not panicking. I'm just chilling. I'm gonna keep doing what I do until someone tells me otherwise.”