Three Rita’s Water Ice locations to open in NW Philly after battle in Chestnut Hill

Things have been busy for John Thain since this time last year when plans for a proposed Rita’s Italian Ice franchise in Chestnut Hill were quashed amid a heated dispute over a restricted covenant for the property.

Thain says he is now gearing up to open two new Rita’s just outside Chestnut Hill. One will occupy a former Rocco’s Italian Ice at 900 E. Willow Grove Avenue in Wyndmoor. Another will be located on Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown. Both are scheduled to open in mid-April.

Thain will also be opening his third Roxborough location this summer, on Ridge Avenue near Bells Mill Road.

Continued expansion

In addition to the three new locations, Thain says negotiations are currently underway to expand his franchise operations into Mt. Airy and Germantown. However, “nothing is finalized at this point, ” he disclosed.

If all goes well, the water ice chain will set up one shop in each neighborhood to open in spring 2014.

Thain said he’s still open to the idea of bringing a Rita’s to Chestnut Hill someday “if the right location presented itself.”

A mere bump in the road

Last March, Thain abandoned his plans to open a Rita’s franchise in the Chestnut Hill Plaza at 7630 Germantown Avenue. The decision came after Ken Weinstein, the owner of Trolley Car Diner and Trolley Car Ice Cream Shoppe in Mt. Airy, located just down the road from Thain’s proposed site, threatened to take Thain to court if he tried to bring the store to that site.

Thain had received the unanimous support of the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) to open a Rita’s in Chestnut Hill Plaza, but was challenged by Weinstein because of a restrictive covenant on the property. The covenant prohibits “fast food” chains with no possibility for future amendment. All neighboring property owners within 750 feet of the plaza have the right to seek enforcement of the covenant.

Weinstein was the only such neighbor who came out in opposition. The stand off between the two businessmen ruffled many feathers in the community. Thain decided to back out rather than engage in what could have turned into a costly legal battle.

Thain says he was disappointed by the lost opportunity, but ultimately did not suffer any real set back as a result.

“That was barely a bump in the road,” he stated. “It hasn’t slow me down one bit.”

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