Kari’s Cafe Needs Angels

It sounds like a modern-day spin on the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”:  a beloved local business owner appeals for urgent assistance from the community she serves, in order to save her establishment from impending financial ruin. 

“I have spent my life savings making the café a warm and inviting place to visit, and have borrowed money from my mom and grandpa,” wrote Kari Capone in a post on Maplewood Online’s message board Tuesday afternoon.  “Now I am asking for your help.”  Capone, owner of Kari’s Café on Springfield Avenue in Maplewood, went on to request donations to help her avoid being evicted by the end of the year. 

Judging by the response, it seems as though Maplewood wants her to stay.  “I was moved to tears by the immediate outpouring of support,” said Capone.  Regular customers stopping by for their morning coffee pressed tens and twenties into her hand.  Others donated through the PayPal account she set up.  As of yesterday afternoon, the donations totaled $1,400 – one-third of the way toward her goal of $5,000.

On Friday night, Capone will host a Rent Party at the café, featuring live music, drinks and treats from Able Baker Julie Pauly.  Bassist Gregory Jones will perform along with other local musicians, and Capone herself will sing.  Donations are requested.

A single mother raising a seven-year-old son, Capone also works two part time jobs in addition to running the café for the past two years.  Her son asked her if she could keep the place open at least until his birthday, in January.  “I told him that I think we can do that,” Capone said with a smile.  In the meantime, she continues to look for investors and partners, and is open to ideas for changing and improving the business to make it more financially viable.

Capone said that for her, running Kari’s Café is about more than just business.  “I feel I have a responsibility to serve the community,” she said.  She is active in various local charities; currently, she is selling coffee to benefit St. Joseph’s Church Food Pantry.

She points out the dearth of independently owned coffee shops in the area.  “What we have here is special,” she said, looking around at the cheerful space on a dreary afternoon.  “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Somethings missing from this story, has the rent gone up? can a deal be worked out with the landlord if nobody is lining up for that space? What happens the next month? The locals will complain about the economy and how its killing the mom and pops but there are lines at the Starbucks nearby. Mindsets need to change. It’s simple if you want your local businesses to survive you have to patronize them and they need to serve a good product. Although i don’t like this ‘rent fund’ tactic best of luck to you Kari because I hate to see people in a situation like this.

  2. I’m old enough to remember “rent parties” hosted by assorted graduate student and semi-grifter friends. (Although they supposedly actually originated back in Harlem during the 30’s.)

    But the first rule of business remains that in order to stay in business, you generally have to have more money coming in than goes out. (Diehard socialists and Marxist-Leninists may disagree, as well as GM and mortgage bank execs, but still…)

    That Ms Capone only now sounds “willing” to listen to suggestions on how to improve business, might even now welcome partners and/or investors, just makes it sound as if she should not be in the restaurant business (which already has a notoriously high annual closure rate) in the first place.

    This may not have been the actual intention of the writer, but there you are. What Ms. Capone is doing at this late date strikes as rather unseemly, and the entire item is thus a bit of a non-starter. Even Amazing Hot Dog and several other businesses once touted on Baristanet as glorious additions to the local retail scene, they did not apparently beg for donations as their ends approached.

    And this certainly does not bear true comparison to George Bailey’s plight save perhaps calendrically, not least because there is no misprision of funds involved here.

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