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Austin Landlord Who Demolished Piñata Shop for SXSW Party Forced to Resign from Company He Co-Founded

The Little Guy: 1, Gentrification: 0

The Jumpolin store a year before it was demolished with all its business property inside, and without the shop owners' notice. Photo via Flickr user Nathan Black

Jordan French, the landlord behind the sudden and cruel demolishment of mom-and-pop piñata shop Jumpolin in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood of East Austin earlier this year (all so he could build a parking lot for a SXSW party) has been forced to resign from his position as CEO of Status Labs, a web reputation management company that he co-founded.

“The company’s employees asked French to resign after reviewing actions taken outside of his role at Status Labs that do not represent the values of the company,” explained Status Labs media director Sarah Pendley in a press release. “Status Labs’ employees have chosen to demonstrate their commitment to the Austin community by regularly volunteering as a company at Austin nonprofits. The first volunteer outing will be serving members of Austin’s homeless community at Caritas on March 30, 2015.”

The ouster comes after French, when faced with proof that his claims of rent delinquency were unfounded and certainly not reason enough to demolish the store and its contents without notice—a move that brought on a wave of criticism from community organizers, piñata shop owners the Lejarazu family, and the internet at large—postured defiantly and bizarrely in response. “Say you have a house that was infested by roaches,” the landlord behind F&F Real Estate told Culturemap Austin last month. “You have to clean that up.”

East Austin has been the site of real estate contention in recent years, with a growing number of families and businesses feeling the pricey effects of gentrification. French had been hoping to force the Lejarazuses, who still had three years on their lease, out of their location for months so he could procede with more lucrative development plans.

The move by Status Labs is encouraging for community activists fighting for the little guys, and is hopefully indicative of growing awareness and action nationwide. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez is leading the charge with his proposed “Jumpolin Bill,” a groundbreaking piece of legislation that would protect small businesses from wrongful eviction by money hungry landlords.

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