Mentobe Partners Bid Emotional Farewell to Farmington

Two more special events happen next week, before the doors of the coffee shop close Sept. 26.

Mentobe Cafe will close its doors Sept. 26. Photo credit: Joni Hubred-Golden
Mentobe Cafe will close its doors Sept. 26. Photo credit: Joni Hubred-Golden
A little over two years after they opened the doors, the owners of Mentobe Cafe in downtown Farmington will close them Sept. 26. 

Partners Kim Chapman and Jackie Mulvihill have already begun saying emotional goodbyes to their customers. They officially launched the coffee shop, with partner Dave Epps, in the newly renovated McNutt building next to the Farmington Civic Theater on June 13, 2011. 

Mentobe got a great response to a "soft opening" during Art on the Grand, a downtown Farmington arts festival. The partners were also buoyed by Founders Festival, which draws tens of thousands to people to downtown Farmington in July. 

But after that, business slowed. The shop, which offers coffee, flavored teas, soups, sandwiches, frozen yogurt, smoothies and sweets, never got the foot traffic it needed to gain profitability. 

"It's been coming for a long time," Mulvihill said. "We thought it would be a little more consistent flow ... We thought Farmington was closer to turning around, but that's not happening yet. I'm not sure that's something we could have known." 

Both women agree the best part of their experience has been the people who have supported the business. "They're just so kind and generous," Chapman said. "That's a good thing that's come out of this."

"The customers we've gotten to know are people we would never have gotten to know in our previous lives," Mulvihill said. "It's been fantastic getting to know these people." 

The last two special events at Mentobe Cafe next week will be Wednesday Night Sessions with local authors and Songwriters Anonymous, a musician showcase, on Thursday. 

What's your favorite memory of Mentobe Cafe? Tell us with a comment.
Cheryl Lynch Fried September 20, 2013 at 12:10 PM
This is so very disappointing!
Theresa Marier Weiler September 20, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Mary Burck September 20, 2013 at 03:28 PM
why cant our town even support a coffee shop that tried so hard???
Jim Sparks September 20, 2013 at 05:24 PM
It is sad, but not surprising. They were pretty good, but their hours were what killed them. Too many times I've driven by only to see a "Closed" sign. Not open late when movie goers get out, not open Sundays, etc. To succeed, you have to get people in the habit of coming when they can/feel like it, and all it takes is a couple of times driving there, parking, and then finding them closed to make people go somewhere else. You have to cater to the customer's needs, not what's convenient for the staff and owners. Too bad. Another promising business in downtown Farmington bites the dust.
Darren Whittaker September 20, 2013 at 05:50 PM
It'd almost be funny if it weren't so sad. What's the average tenancy for a new business in town now? Downtown Farmington and it's "leaders" are sure batting 1000, aren't they? The DDA is nothing but a glorified (read, verrry expensive) exterior decorator. But, not to worry. A $300,000 ice rink will do the trick. Yeah, that's the ticket.
stacy Wallach September 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM
I am beyond saddened to hear of this news. I loved visiting these lovely ladies every week when I was at work, and enjoying what I believe to be the best yogurt and coffees I have ever had. This closure is yet another example of the crisis situation in downtown Farmington, and it is time citizens demand, and MAYBE even get some answers. IT IS NOT THE TAXES, the neighboring cities with thriving downtowns pay the same, or in most cases more in business taxes. They are alive and well. The same as usual answers from local politicians when challenged on this issue are old, tired, and not accomplishing anything except pointing the community towards more farewells. The City Council needs to take a cold hard look at what is the reason behind YEARS of empty store fronts and failing businesses. We want some company downtown, as Clothes Encounters wants to welcome more stores, more variety of different businesses, and more choices for visitors to have a reason to make Farmington a destination. The answer is not more apartment complexes as mentioned in an earlier post, there are many vacancies in the existing ones. I don't know the answer, but it is not my job to find out. It is my job to question as I have, and ask for help. We want to see this area succeed and we want more businesses to enhance the area we have supported with our business and taxes for 27 years and counting.
Guy Columbo Worthy September 21, 2013 at 11:27 AM
You cant use this store closing as a example of downtown woes. Mostly because a previous comment hit the nail on the head on this one. The place was never open when I walked by... Nor was there any signage to indicate lunch options.
stacy Wallach September 21, 2013 at 11:41 AM
Guy, They never touted themselves as a lunch establishment, simply a coffee/treat shop. I am not disagreeing with you on the hour issue, I am simply pointing out that many communities in downtown areas have these types of yogurt, coffee etc. establishments, while offering meals and stay in business. It is just sad to bid them farewell.
stacy Wallach September 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM
correction...while NOT offering meals. sorry.
Darren Whittaker September 21, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Unless and until there is some kind of serious effort (by the city, DDA, and Chamber) to not only recruit viable businesses for downtown, but to help them with advice and maybe even economic assistance this kind of thing will continue to be the norm. What's needed is a team of professionals (NOT what they have currently) to concentrate on wooing and keeping businesses that have long-term potential. I'm not suggesting that this is an easy job, but given the existing group of 'officials', their woeful track record and the exorbitant costs to employ them, there remains a glaring need for effective action by people that are adequately equipped to do so. The rampant check-writing and thumb-twiddling needs to stop, and someone needs to get up off their collective arses and create a sensible plan of action, backed by prudent investment of the boat-load of tax dollars they take in. It's really not rocket science, just takes the will of our public officials and some concentrated effort. Given past history, I'm not holding my breath for this to happen. Oh well, maybe my grandkids will be able to enjoy a thriving downtown Farmington.
nancy kilner September 21, 2013 at 05:51 PM
So disappointing. The owners did everything they could to bring a little class to downtown Farminton. As others commented, other surrounding communities are thriving - what is the problem with Farmington?
Denise Gundle-White September 22, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Such a shame! I too was often frustrated when trying to go to Mentobe before work, on Sundays, and later evenings, only to find them closed. Unfortunately, I ended up elsewhere... --- I certainly do not claim to understand all that goes into city planning, but my husband and I have often thought that the parking lot to south of TJ Maxx would be a good place to consider for a parking deck (similar to Plymouth's), especially since it already IS designated as a parking area. We often hear about possibility of a parking deck at Maxfield Training Center location. Hopefully those are rumors; it seems as if that property with the beautiful view of the park could offer something more than parking. --- While I enjoy the Tuesday Morning stores, I was disappointed to see that it is coming back to the downtown square. I would love to see that area for restaurants (with outdoor opportunities) and for unique independent shops. I suppose something is better than nothing, but I'd rather see Tues Morn and similar stores in the many empty storefronts just outside of the downtown.
Darren Whittaker September 22, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Tuesday Morning tried and failed in Farmington already - not sure what has changed that makes them believe this time will be different, but at least it's one less empty store. For a while at least..
Kathleen Rodak September 23, 2013 at 05:10 PM
It is very sad to see the closing of Mentobe Cafe. Many complain about the lack of late hours and Sunday hours. They tried those hours by staying open in the evening during the first year. The patrons were not there. It was not financially feasible to stay open if only one or two people come in and order a coffee and muffin. Thank you Jackie and Kim for all you did to try to make the business a success. You invited local artists in to show their works and encouraged local groups to meet in the shop for their meetings. I don't know what more you could have done. The Farmington Art Foundation Gallery will also be closing at the end of September. The support to keep it open was just not there. Thank you to everyone who ventured in and looked around and to those who purchased art pieces. It was a great adventure over the summer. We hope to return next year if a store front is available.
Hannah Peters September 24, 2013 at 01:05 AM
I am utterly FLOORED at the laziness of this community, in terms of supporting local businesses. Mentobe had certain shortcomings, but it never ceases to amaze me how many complaints I hear constantly about having to walk a half block from their parking spot. (These parking spots are always free and unmetered.) Has anyone in this town ever been to a city with a population of more than 200,000? Perhaps a college town in Michigan? Anywhere west of Grand Rapids? Birmingham? Chicago? New York? LA? These cities all have costly parking that can be a long walk from the CBD. The DDA, city and chamber are political arguments that are ongoing - but Farmington has never had the "destination" mentality. Why walk around the corner for Mentobe? Why support our downtown businesses? Perhaps the answer to the question lies in the countless vacant storefronts.
nancy kilner September 24, 2013 at 06:10 AM
Hannah, you have made some excellent points regarding Mentobe. Couldn't agree with you more!
Darren Whittaker September 24, 2013 at 10:27 AM
Hannah, while it is certainly a good thing to support local businesses, the fact is the vast majority of people don't shop somewhere based on that sentiment alone. They WILL support businesses that cater to them, that make the case for enduring inconveniences, however small, that might present themselves. The cities you mention have at least one thing in common - they have places people WANT to go, for product selection, great presentation and good value. You're absolutely right that too many people have gotten complacent about walking even a short distance for almost anything, and it's the big box and strip mall convenience stores that have contributed to this laziness. But blaming the customer NEVER works. It won't increase sales, and it just leaves the businesses with the option of closing their doors. That's why many of these businesses are in dire need of expert advice, from marketing and advertising to product offering, pricing and yes, hours of operation. The city, DDA and chamber could be of great help in this regard if they had the will to do so. Unfortunately, they're stuck in their long-held belief that what they're doing presently, and have been doing for decades, is the best that they can do. We've seen the results. It's time for a fresh approach.


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