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The coffee shop and the cursed business location

Submitted by on Tuesday, 30 September 2008 No Comment

It didn’t surprise me to see a “closing soon” sign on the door of our neighborhood coffee shop yesterday morning. What surprised me is that it took three years.

That’s the longest any business has remained in that location. You know what I’m talking about, because every town has them. Storefronts that look like a good idea, but every proprietor who sets up shop is doomed to fail.

You can’t blame the closure on the economy, because businesses have been failing in that spot for seven years. You can’t blame it on decreased coffee consumption. It’s actually increasing, particularly gourmet drinks among young adults. You can’t blame it on Starbucks — that chain’s struggles are well-documented.

You can’t blame it on location. You’d think the shop is in a prime spot. Directly across from a university with scant parking, which means ample foot traffic. Next-door neighbor to a retirement home full of folks who love to walk. The convenience store and restaurant on either end of the strip do well.

The only possible factor other than a storefront that needs an exorcism: She went in three summers ago under a cut-rate sweetheart lease deal from a landlord, not unlike the subprime loans that are biting people’s butts right now. Her rent was low early but escalated later. Stop me if you’ve heard this lament from a homeowner in your neighborhood.

The closure makes me a bit melancholy, and not just because I’m quickly losing all my vices within walking distance.

Big Guy’s practically grown up in that coffee shop, eating his first ice cream as I sipped Americanos during a break from our morning walks under the first owner. The second owner knew that when I came in and asked for coffee for Big Guy, I really wanted a tepid hot chocolate. Big Guy would have thrown a fit if he suspected he wasn’t getting the real deal.

The summer when Little Guy was a baby, we were there every morning, drawing visits from the regulars at the nearby restaurant, hair salon and convenience store. But there were never any regulars from the coffee shop. And therein lies the problem.

There are those who believe that owners in seemingly cursed locations can do something other than rely on voodoo to make their businesses work. One suggestion is grassroots marketing — fliers in the neighborhood, radio station remotes and such, most of which the three coffee shops have tried.

Maybe who ever goes in next — and someone will, because the spot looks too good to resist — should try Twitter. Now, that’s a coffee-addicted crowd if I’ve ever seen one.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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