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.”