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Group plans fundraiser, more meetings to address Café Zoma's future

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Note: Sarah White attended and commented on developments from the first two community meetings addressing the future of Café Zoma, a popular neighborhood coffee shop and gathering spot on Atwood Avenue. TDP asked her to report on this past Saturday's planning meeting as well. As should be obvious from the following report, she is an active participant in the process.


The community of people concerned about the closing of Café Zoma met Saturday, from 10 am until noon.. Channel 27 had a reporter/cameraman there who will produc a 1.5 minute piece on it. (How you do that is beyond me, but there it is.) About 20 people attended the meeting.

After an initial round in which each person gave name and reason for attending, we heard from Peder Moran, president of Schenk-Atwood Revitalization Association (SARA), about what the organization is (and is not). In the week since our previous meeting I had invited SARA to send representatives.

Moran explained SARA is NOT a lender, but can act as a conduit for tax purposes, since they have 501(c)3 status. (This may be relevant to the fundraising committee.) He seemed to be somewhat concerned that we might think SARA would purchase and operate Zoma. He left after speaking his piece, apparently relieved. I appreciate his making time to come, and his transparency and honesty with us.

We defined what we are doing as "community mobilization to protect our assets," the asset in question being our community "living room" at Café Zoma.

At that point we broke up into two groups. One worked on organizing a fundraising event and the other on long-range planning. Meghan Blake-Horst, owner of Absolutely Art, facilitated the fundraising discussion. I facilitated the long-range planning. What follows is a short report on each. I had nine people in my group, so Meghan's must have had nine or ten as well.

Fundraising

For more info contact Meghan@absolutelyartllc.com. I only have their report back to the group to go on, as I was busy with the other group.

A fundraiser titled "Taste of the East Side" is planned for January 28, 6-9 p.m. We are seeking donations of food/beverages, and approaching local musicians for entertainment. Proceeds from the door (suggested donation $10-$10k) will be used to defray the current owner's expenses in February-March -- she must pay rent, utilities and insurance even though the cafe is closed. Our hope is to raise $10,000. There will be a silent auction to benefit the employees who lost their jobs when the cafe closed. Donations for the auction are welcome. Publicity is underway and we hope 250-300 people attend the "Taste of the East Side."

Long-range-planning

We defined this committee's purpose as:

1) paving the way for a new owner

2) looking into community solutions to help that new owner succeed.

We hope to see a new owner open the doors by April, 2009. We discussed what we thought was preventing Café Zoma from operating profitably under the previous owner, and what we might be able to do to achieve our purpose.

We then brainstormed a list of questions about the market, competition, operation of the business, etc. There was some discussion of building a cooperative aspect into the next phase of the business -- probably not as a co-op-owned enterprise, but forming a co-op to support the new owner with some aspects of the business.

Next, we brainstormed a list of answers, harvesting ideas from the discussion so far that would help a new owner make a success of the business. These ranged from looking into increasing to-go sales by getting some 10-minute parking spaces in front of the cafe, to leveraging the communities that Zoma has attracted -- parents, people who "office" there, etc.

Five individuals volunteered to take specific steps to follow up, researching questions on the list.

Next steps

The fundraising committee meets again on Wednesday 1/7/09 at 6 p.m. at Absolutely Art.

The long-range planning committee meets on Saturday 1/10/09 at 1 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center.

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