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The popular ice cream and coffee shop Toscanini’s remains closed after a seizure on Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue for nonpayment of more than $167,000 in back taxes.
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The Central Square branch of Toscanini’s Ice Cream was seized last Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue because the shop failed to pay more than $167,000 in taxes that have accumulated since 2000, according to the Boston Globe.

A proposal for reopening the store and paying the taxes requested by the DOR was submitted on Tuesday, Toscanini’s owner Gus Rancatore said in an interview. He had not yet heard back from the DOR regarding the proposal as of Tuesday afternoon, he said, but he and the DOR were in talks to develop a plan to reopen the store.

To raise money for a down payment to the DOR, Samuel Mehr — a Toscanini’s employee and music student in Rochester, N.Y. — created a Web site requesting donations, said Gus Rancatore. The site, www.savetosci.com, stated that its goal was to raise $25,000 to help the store reopen.

As of yesterday afternoon, the site has raised more than $18,000 from donations, said Mimi Rancatore, one of the store’s operators. The amount raised was “very overwhelming” and “[we are] very grateful,” she said.

The shop was shut down largely because of a “confused attempt to expand the business between 2000 and 2005,” according to a press release issued by Gus and Mimi Rancatore on Jan. 20.

“We got very disorganized and did not pay taxes for a period,” Gus Rancatore said in an interview. During that time, Toscanini’s opened stores in Harvard Square and Davis Square; both stores were closed in the latter part of 2006, he said.

The seizure also occurred at a bad time because “this is the worst time of the year for us,” he said. “We’re not very busy at all.”

Toscanini’s has been shut down before for not paying taxes. The shop was closed for one day in 2002, but “Gus got it reopened,” Mimi Rancatore said.

Since then, “we’ve been running the business in a much more organized way,” with business “much more profitable” than years earlier when the two other stores were open, Gus Rancatore said.

The Save Tosci Web site’s forum for comments has been alive with people expressing both sympathy for Toscanini’s situation and disdain for its attempt to raise money. “If people don’t want to [donate], they certainly don’t have to do it,” Gus Rancatore said. “We’re not asking for a tax break. We admit we incurred this obligation, and we want to pay it.”

According to Rancatore, the Internet has caused news of Toscanini’s closing to spread to MIT alumni all over the world. He said he has received e-mails and donations from former members of the MIT community who are now at distant places like Italy and China. “Most [of the e-mails] have been incredibly sweet,” Gus Rancatore said.

Reactions at MIT have been varied. “I don’t understand why a for-profit company is requesting donations to stay afloat,” James A. Ostrowski ’10 said.

Emily A. Kramer ’08 said that she has been to Toscanini’s “quite a few times in the past few years.” “It’s really sad to see a small business get into trouble like that,” Kramer said.