THE MANAGERS of Alstonville's The Plaza have been accused of being ruthless after up to six of their tenants discovered "by accident" they were unlikely to have their leases renewed.
It was believed the shops were being squeezed out to make way for the likely expansion of Coles supermarket.
But the store owners claim they had had no official notification from Plaza management, despite their businesses now being potentially worthless.
Alstonville Health Food store owner Nardia Coote said management's intentions only began to emerge after she checked with them on her lease a month ago ahead of selling her business.
Ms Coote said she was told her shop would not be offered a new lease, effectively killing the sale.
That was despite receiving a letter from management in January this year advising that her new lease was ready to be signed.
Ms Coote said she had intended to use money from the sale to clear a business loan, but would now have to get a job to repay her debts.
After hearing what happened to Ms Coote, Mitre 10 owners John and Lola Nielsen approached management to check on their lease.
They were told that it would not be renewed when it expired in February, but have had no written confirmation of this to date.
Mr Nielsen said without a lease his business was virtually worthless, despite only recently being valued at half a million dollars.
The future of at least four other shops in the vicinity of Coles were also under a cloud.
Alstonville Chamber of Commerce secretary Margaret Orr, who recently met with The Plaza's managing agent, said the expansion of Coles was only a strong possibility at this stage.
Ms Orr said while she sympathised with affected businesses, she believed The Plaza had treated them fairly and, long-term, a bigger supermarket would inject more money into the economy.
A spokesman for Coles said there were no formal plans "at this stage" for any expansion of their Alstonville store.
The Plaza did not provide a comment prior to publication.