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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 18, 201805:20 AM EST

Journey to reconciliation: A contentious dispute takes an unexpected turn

How the Sleiman brothers’ and Ryan Hoback changed their relationship after a court battle.

Ryan Hoback recently closed in on six months at the new address for his relocated business, Hoby’s Honey & General Store.

He opened his rustic country store April 7 in the Gates of Olde Mandarin at 11362 San Jose Blvd. just two-tenths of a mile north of its former location in a shopping center at 11467 San Jose Blvd.

A credit union bought the shopping center in March.

It was a short move but also a journey.

The dispute

Hoback, now 40, closed his previous store in June 2017 under circumstances that found him in court with his then-new landlord, Triforce Development LLC.

Triforce is owned by brothers Louis and Paul Sleiman, now 26 and 27.

At the heart of the dispute were the Sleiman brothers’ plans to acquire and revitalize the then 54-year-old shopping center in which Hoback was leasing.

As it can be with lawsuits, it was contentious.

In July 2016, the Sleiman brothers, through Olde Mandarin LLC, paid $920,000 for the about 7,000-square-foot retail building. There were no other tenants.

According to court records, in the months before they purchased the building, the Sleiman brothers met Hoback in person to discuss plans to relocate access as part of construction.

During that meeting Hoback did not object to the plan but instead suggested that the Sleiman brothers make an offer to buy him out of his lease, according to court documents.

The Sleiman brothers offered an $82,500 buyout of the 1,000-square-foot unit. Hoback countered at $295,000, and the negotiations fell through.

After the start of construction, Hoback filed a lawsuit against the Sleiman brothers regarding the construction.

The Sleiman brothers countersued asserting that Hoback was obstructing their renovation efforts while making new requests through email to be bought out of his lease for $255,000.

In February 2017, the court found Hoback in material breach of his lease agreement.

After the ruling, the brothers said they allowed Hoback to vacate the unit rather than be formally evicted.

The resolution

In January of this year, they bonded.

Paul Sleiman said an article posted by Hoby’s Honey popped up on his Facebook news feed.

It was about Project: Cold Case, a Jacksonville-based nonprofit that helps resolve unsolved homicides.

Sleiman decided to donate but did so anonymously after seeing that Hoback was a board member.

A friend of Hoback and the head of the foundation with access to the donation records informed Hoback of Sleiman’s donation.

“I was pretty taken aback,” Hoback said, adding he thought it was a wonderful gesture and called Sleiman to tell him so.

A few months passed and Hoback friended Paul Sleiman on Facebook. Hoback posted about Project: Cold Case’s yearly fundraiser and Sleiman asked to attend the annual event.

“Sure, that would be awesome,” Hoback said. “In fact, why don’t we go and have a beer afterward?”

That was Jan. 27 in Atlantic Beach and they had that beer at Poe’s Tavern.

“After that, we hit it off pretty well,” Paul Sleiman said. “We sat at the bar for a couple hours and had a good conversation.”

Ryan Hoback, owner of Hoby’s Honey & General Store at 11362 San Jose Blvd. in the Gates of Olde Mandarin shopping center. Hoback says his faith helped him overcome a dispute with the Sleiman brothers, and that now they are friends

Louis Sleiman met his brother and Hoback for drinks a couple of months later at River & Post in Riverside.

“It’s certainly more enjoyable getting to know someone over a beer than over a deposition,” he said.

Hoback and Paul Sleiman now say they’re friends and trade texts and business advice.

Sleiman offers guidance about Hoback’s drone company, which encourages children to learn science, technology, engineering and math through operating drones.

“Ryan and I definitely have a passion for business and entrepreneurship,” Sleiman said.

Hoback said faith played a part in their ensuing friendship.

Hoback said he grew up Southern Baptist and faith is a grounding body for everyone.

Sleiman, born and raised Catholic, said a central part of Christianity is forgiveness.

“When Ryan suggested that we share this story with the public to serve as an inspiration for others, I said ‘Sure, let’s do it’, ” Sleiman said.

Hoback said that as a God-fearing man who believes strongly in his faith, he can speak for the Sleiman brothers that “part of our story comes from forgiving and letting go of the situation that we’re in.”

“The situation that we incurred two years ago was one where a lot of people would not have had the strength of self to put that situation behind them and move forward,” Hoback said.

The Sleiman brothers say they agree.

“Not every dispute has to end in ill will,” said Louis Sleiman.

Selling the property

The Sleiman brothers invested almost $1.26 million in the Mandarin property through the acquisition and upgrades.

On March 20, Paul and Louis Sleiman sold the shopping center to First Florida Credit Union for $3.85 million.

The credit union applied to the city for a permit to renovate about 3,000 square feet of the building for its Mandarin branch at a construction cost of $600,000.

First Florida President and CEO Brent Lister said in a statement that Triforce Development “delivered superior quality real estate that will play an important role in driving the success of this branch for existing and potential members” in the Mandarin community and Jacksonville at large.

Mattress1One occupies the remaining 4,000 square feet.

Hoback looks ahead

Hoback said he continues his friendship with Paul Sleiman, who provides advice for Hoback’s drone business.

The new address, Hoback said, “has been a great location for us.”

He said Hoby’s Honey benefits from the traffic exposure, available parking and relationship with neighboring businesses, like the Beach Diner and The Tree Steakhouse.

“We hope to be here for the long haul,” he said.


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