Fair Grounds Coffeehouse is closing, owners Steve and Christine Pernetti announced on Fair Grounds’ Facebook page on Friday morning.
“It has been the experience of our lifetime and we can’t thank customers and staff enough for the memories and relationships you provided. If you have time please read our open letter. You will be in our hearts forever,” wrote the Pernettis, who have owned the coffeehouse on Dubuque Street, a block south of the Ped Mall, for eight years.
In an extended “Open Letter to our loyal Customers, Suppliers, and Staff,” the couple explained some of the reasons for their decision.
“We wanted an environment that would mean more to the staff than collecting a paycheck. We wanted a community of staff and customers,” they wrote. “With many styles of management to choose from, and after decades of corporate life, we decided to try something completely different — empowering our staff to do the right thing based on their work ethic and personal commitment. Our approach may have been the first of many mistakes.”
According to the Pernettis, Fair Grounds had 185 employees over eight years — “some lasted years, some lasted hours. It became an endless stream with an impact on everything; good and bad. Consistency suffered. Alcohol, small wares, and money vanished.”
Despite the problems, the Pernettis enjoyed the community the coffeehouse created.
“Over time we became a focal point for bohemian artists from many origins,” they wrote. “Almost seven hundred readers, dancers, and artists later, and we see ourselves reflected in that community. Vegans, non-vegans, artists, writers, students, retirees, the allergic, special needs people — we welcomed everyone to share out [sic] venue… Sadly, the one missing element in this diverse mix of people, passions, and principles remained — a viable business model.”
The Pernettis said they had been considering closing Fair Grounds for several years. After attempting unsuccessfully find a buyer for the coffeehouse, they decided it was finally time to close it.
“Fair Grounds will become another memory, loved by many, hated by a few, ignored by most,” the Pernettis wrote.