Pudding Bar leaves Easton amid legal battle with landlord. When, where dessert shop is relocating.

After more than a year of tumultuous dispute with their landlord, Khanisa’s The Pudding Bar is vacating Easton in hopes of a new beginning at the Downtown Allentown Market.

Co-owners Khanisa and Sean Darby made the announcement this past week on the business’ Instagram page.

“We can’t wait to make this transition into Downtown Allentown,” the post stated. “We offer our apologies to all of our loyal Easton customers but you all need to understand our plight. This move is necessary and will allow our business to flourish as we should be.”

“We are going to put our all into this space and can’t wait to add to” the Allentown market, 27 N. Seventh St., the post added.

The Pudding Bar on Oct. 1 will move into space previously occupied by Batch Microcreamery. Batch announced earlier this month it would be shuttering on Aug. 31 at its initial location at the Downtown Allentown Market due to a new “focus on increasing production and distribution capabilities.”

Batch’s two other locations currently remain open at Shepherd Hills Golf Club, 1160 S. Krocks Road, Lower Macungie Township, which opened this past May, and at Trolley Barn Public Market in Quakertown, Bucks County.

The Darbys will be grand opening with all sundaes costing a special $10 (normally $14.99) on opening day. This includes the seasonal flavors of pumpkin spice pudding and sweet potato pie.

New to the Downtown Allentown Market and not available in Easton will be alcohol-infused pudding flavors and some vegan options. What remains popular are the customizable pudding cups, in which patrons can choose their own layers. The cost of all treats at the Allentown location will be between $8 to $15, Sean Darby said.

The Darbys also plan to continue selling their “Pigs in Dirt” pudding treats at Coca-Cola Park for Lehigh Valley IronPigs fans. The Darbys, however, have since ceased operations at other pop-up locations and small businesses they had been selling at in the past. Those sites were temporary when the Darbys shuttered their Easton location at 118 Northampton St. this past April amid their safety concerns for patrons.

The Darbys have operated in Easton since August 2016. They then opened with a storefront at 48 West St. Joseph Street on the city’s South Side. They later moved to 74 N. Fourth St. in Downtown Easton before stumbling upon the larger space along Northampton Street. It was the chance to grow their business with more seating that led to the move in June 2019.

Prior, the pair sold at various mall kiosks before investing about $25,000 into their initial brick-and-mortar site.

At the time, landlord Borko Milosev was bringing back space at 118-120 Northampton St. that sat vacant for several years after a devastating 1982 fire. The main level would offer retail space for the pudding shop and one of 14 apartments being constructed would give the couple and their two sons a new home.

Khanisa and Sean Darby

Khanisa and Sean Darby sit at Khanisa’s The Pudding Bar at the Northampton Street location in this October 2020 file photo.Donna Fisher file photo | lehighvalleylive.com contributor

The Darbys have been in litigation with the various companies Milosev is involved with since at least September 2021.

They currently have two pending lawsuits. The suits are against 120 Northampton LLC, the building owner, and Post Road Management, the management company. Milosev is affiliated with the Post Road entities and is a member of the company owning the building. The suits seek an unspecified amount in damages.

The suits allege a falling storm window injured the couple and they previously were forced to close the pudding shop for several months because of water damage from a drilling accident in an apartment above. Additionally, the business’s floors started warping and worsened with time, and there are more issues with an HVAC system, holes in the brick wall or other damage, the couple has said.

Sean Darby told lehighvalleylive.com this week the Darbys remain in litigation over the lease at the Easton building. In actuality, the couple currently continues to have two pudding locations — with one site closed — as they iron out the issues, he said.

A third case was recently filed by 120 Northampton LLC against Khanisa Darby and her business, as well as Marko Golubovic, a business partner. Steve Williams, the attorney representing 120 Northampton St. LLC, said the case already has resulted in a judgement against the pair for $116,200 in rent and possession of the property. Sean Darby is not a signatory to the lease for the pudding shop, Williams noted.

Williams rebutted claims by the Darbys when reached by lehighvalleylive.com this week. He claims the incident with the water damage was the result of another tenant performing renovations and drilling into a water pipe, and that the HVAC system is functioning. Structural issue allegations, he said, also have been unfounded.

The Darbys have taken their concerns and frustration multiple times to Easton City Council seeking a resolution to their issues.

During a livestream of the May 25 meeting, the Darbys claimed they invested everything they had into a $140,000 build-out of the business. They additionally claimed code officials ignored their repeated requests to fix the alleged code violations by the property owner.

“Everything we put in this space was brand new, and we have watched it deteriorate over the last three years,” Khanisa Darby told city officials during the meeting. “… I feel that this is where the buck stops.”

The Darbys additionally accused the city of favoring the landlord/redeveloper over them as business owners and residents. Sean Darby, who is Black as is his wife, made racial remarks, suggesting the city would have responded differently had “an old white lady” been hit by the storm window falling. It led to an outburst from Mayor Sal Panto Jr., in which he uttered a profanity to counter their accusation, language that he apologized for at the next city council meeting in June.

Khanisa Darby during the May meeting requested a thorough investigation into the issues. An internal investigation released in July by City Administrator Luis Campos cleared city officials of any missteps in their response when investigating the Darbys’ allegations about the way the city handled the issues.

Sean Darby told lehighvalleylive.com this week the water damage, resulting in mold and buckled floors, remains.

“We chose safety for our family and our customers by not opening,” Sean Darby said about the Easton closure. “… We lost our home in this building, we do not feel safe in that building.”

Khanisa’s The Pudding Bar will join several other merchants at the Downtown Allentown Market in the center of the Arts Walk. One vacancy remains, which is slated to be filled by The Loaded Plantain, operated by the former owners of Coal Winery and Kitchen in Bethlehem. Jeff Vaughan, spokesman for market owner, City Center Allentown, previously told lehighvalleylive.com he expects an opening later this month for The Loaded Plantain.

There are at least six other current vendors, including two of the nine originals when the market opened: Middle Eastern/Mediterranean eatery Zahra and Tavola, featuring artisan pizza and signature pasta. There’s also Johnny’s Artwalk Diner; Bar 1838; Honmono Sushi and Ciao Sandwich Shoppe.

Hours for Khanisa’s The Pudding Bar in Allentown are pending.

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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at [email protected].