At the end of September, Mark Landman and his wife, Megyn Rodgers, had a nasty surprise: their landlord’s lawyer put a notice on the door of their cafe, The Molecule Effect, at 525 Santa Fe Drive, stating that their lease does not would not be renewed. “Over the years, we thought we had a really good relationship with him. Even in August, on the first Friday, we all sat together and had a glass of wine on our patio,” Landman said.
When the pandemic hit, this owner, Horace McCowan of Horace Properties, was “really good to us,” Landman notes. “He offered concessions for which we were very grateful, and very recently we were able to pay that back.” The Molecule Effect, which has a second location in the Wash Park neighborhood, had accepted a month-to-month lease on Santa Fe. The company therefore has until October 31 to vacate the space it has been in for seven years. In order to have enough time to properly close, Landman and Rodgers plan to close the doors on October 15.
But some in the neighborhood hope they can use their collective power to rally around the business. When longtime customer Beth Sebian heard about the shutdown, she decided to take action. “I spent my lunch break at the print shop,” Sebian says, producing flyers to promote a community meeting at the café on October 8 at 6:30 pm “I really like coffee; I go there a few times a week, “she explains.” But over the past few years, I’ve also noticed how Mark and Megyn run their business. ”
“Our mission was to build a community,” says Landman. “We think our name says it all: the Molecule effect is all about creating chemistry between people. Our mission was to provide a space where people could meet, debate, have fun, fall in love. And all of the above. has occurred. ”
In addition to providing a gathering space for the community, Molecule Effect focuses on supporting local creators, showcasing artists’ work on the walls and hosting live music from local artists and an evening of comedy at open mic.
“They are trying to run a business that serves the community,” continues Sebian. “I became even more aware of this during COVID, when I saw the effort they put in to stay open and support their employees.” Now Sebian wants to return that energy. “I want to support a business that supports my neighborhood.
She hopes this meeting will be the first step in determining how to raise the community’s collective voice against what she sees as an unfair move by McCowan. “I think the owners have a lot of power, and because of that they have a lot of responsibilities to the community that they should be held accountable for,” says Sebian. “I think the local is important. I think the relationships and the communities are important. This cafe is not the only thing in the world that matters right now, but the muscle to really own our community and what we allow it to happen, it’s like a practice that matters to me, and it’s a practice that will serve us beyond that as well. ”
His goal for the meeting is to answer two questions: does it matter to us? And what are we going to do with it? She hopes the group can “make some noise and not let this happen in silence.”
“Megyn and I are right next to us because of the generosity,” Landman said of the outpouring of support the Molecule Effect has seen since announcing the impending shutdown. But he also remains upset and confused by the landlord’s complete lack of direct communication regarding his plans to terminate the company’s lease. “The ironic part of this is that our owner is an SBA lender for Key Bank, and I feel like by day he’s an SBA lender to help small business, and by night he’s an owner and going destroy small businesses and do what’s best for them financially. ”
Sebian echoes this sentiment. “From what I understand from the situation, the owner has simply behaved in a totally unacceptable manner, it is a little greedy and without any responsibility to the community or the business relationships that he has.”
But even as Landman, Rodgers, Sebian and others fight to make their voices heard, the company is already planning a future beyond its current location in the Arts District. “We think we are now a permanent part of the community,” Landman said. “With this unfortunate news, we immediately started to see if there were other options in the neighborhood.”
But construction will take time, so in the meantime, Landman and Rodgers will continue to support local artists and provide space for community gatherings at the location of Molecule Effect’s Wash Park, which opened in March 2020 in 300 South Logan Street.
The Molecule Effect isn’t the only business shutting down due to issues with owners: Factotum Brewhouse will close on October 9 after the operators and building owner were unable to offer a rental rate that both parties considered fair.
As many restaurants, bars, brasseries and cafes are finally starting to see customers returning in droves ahead of the pandemic, these examples prove that more challenges lie ahead.