Cafe de Troit: A Memoriam

Locals knew it and loved it. Outlanders discovered it and raved about it. Yet, through all the hype, Cafe de Troit was always behind the 8-ball, never able to get the financial support to match the buzz.

On Friday, it’s closing — and this guy’s Detroit will never be the same.

More after the fold…

Launched 30 months ago, the Cafe would soon become my home away from home, and Lee one of my very best friends. We watched as the trickle of patrons became a river, feeding early hopes that the Cafe would not only do well, but possibly become a franchise-type store.

The repeat customers stayed, but too many became infrequent and absent. Lee and Patrick opened on the weekends (to the sheer delight of so many). Book clubs, Meetup groups, Rotary gatherings, Art collections, chiropractic services, live music and other concepts were initiated, but never fully appreciated by enough people.

I never fully appreciated how hard owning a business was until I watched Lee work herself to the breaking point. I would occasionally work behind the counters, help at catering jobs and deliver food for her… she had many people that loved to be around it. So many of us were volunteers, giving back in the slightest way in honor of what the Cafe meant to us. Heck, Lee and I started a company together (along with another friend, Sharon) that suffered from a lack of care; none of us had enough time to fully work it to justice. Lee kept the faith through some very, very difficult months Cafe-wise. Her self-sacrifice is not well-known, but trust me in that she went far far beyond what most would do…

Yet, she was always there with a smile and a wink and (if you were lucky) some juicy gossip. She never failed to please. And as the typical local professional wandered in and out of the Cafe, she wondered how long she could hold on. They said it wouldn’t work, and they questioned how long it would last. Frankly, through sheer will, she made it work longer than it should have, given the climate.

The business climate sucks in this town. Small places like Lee’s pop up and die almost instantly, which really should give you an idea of how hard they worked at it. The truth is that the city is NOT business friendly. We think it is, but the climate makes it damn near IMPOSSIBLE for small businesses to survive… from small things like parking meter attendants intentionally baiting and preying on customers to lax standards on deadbeat landlords.

As it turned out, she and Patrick are off to an overseas life. The Cafe will go dark on Friday night, and will become nothing much more than a memory. For many of us – and more than a few reading this – it will be indelible in our memories of our home.

Thank you, Lee and Patrick. You are loved, and the Cafe will be missed.

4 Comments so far

  1. Jeppy (unregistered) on October 19th, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

    Bobby, that was a beautiful piece. I want you to write my eulogy… (hopefully that won’t be too soon!)

  2. MGal (unregistered) on October 19th, 2005 @ 1:51 pm

    Looks like Detroit Metbloggers Cafe de Troit. We had our very first meet-up there attended by Urban Tiki, Girl in the D and MGal.


  3. Lee Padgett (unregistered) on October 19th, 2005 @ 2:30 pm

    Thank you Bobby!
    We will miss everyone here too!

  4. Paul Unger (unregistered) on December 24th, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

    My friend and I walked in quite often for the coffee, we weren’t artists, we weren’t intellectually personified in mind and fashion, but damnit…the girls were always nice to us, the coffee was great and we always felt welcomed! Detroit City can be it’s own worse enemy sometimes I swear!

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