Another one of OC's treasured coffee shop venues is in danger of closing. Last month, we reported that the Night Owl Cafe in Fullerton started a fundraiser to save their open mic nights and business. Now Max Bloom's Cafe, also in Fullerton, faces similar troubles with the community coming together to keep its doors open. With owner Kevin Carter falling behind on rent and having trouble negotiating the terms of his lease, Max Bloom's is in danger of closing down due to lack of funds to uphold the business. Community members Dave Vebber & Ben Bergen put together a "Save Max Bloom's" event on February 25 with live music and raffles in hopes of raising funds which managed to raise more than $2000, and employee Mika Ying started a gofundme to raise donations (which has so far raised $70).
The venue opened in 2009, after Carter put his whole life savings into the coffeehouse. Carter named his cafe after a fictitious writer/investigator invented by him and his original business partner, after deciding that his cafe would have a 50's theme of original coffeehouses. He believes the freedom & variety of expression is what separates the cafe from others. During the shop's weekly performance nights, Carter always vowed never to censor the artists who take the stage. The venue hosts gallery nights, comedy nights, poetry nights, open mics, movie nights, and even punk shows. In the past eight years, Carter says he's never made a profit off of the cafe, managing to keep his coffeehouse afloat through working six days a week at AutoZone when he isn't working at Max's.
"My lease is up June 1, and they need a 90 day notice whether I am going to stay or not. I'm behind on my rent by a month, and I have been for a year." Carter says. "When I signed my lease last year, the terms were to bring the rent current, so I know they aren't going to renew it. They want a three-year lease or a two-year lease, and I can't go out on a limb like that. I want to go to the table and ask for another one-year lease, but bring the rent current when I do that."
The month that he fell a month behind on rent, Carter says the business had taken a dive, which has made it hard to catch up on a missed months rent. With the possibility of having to close down his cafe, Carter voiced this to friends, whom he never expected to jump to action in raising funds to save the business. Carter's both "amazed" and "overwhelmed" by the support that he's received by the community, stating that all of these ideas are from Vebber. If they can't manage to raise the funds, Carter says he will unfortunately have to close down. He believes that this is just a sad trend that faces small cafes, which he feels is why financial troubles face The Night Owl as well.
"I learned as I went along that that's why coffeehouses started to disappear, they're hard to keep going. Even if you're not trying to make a living, it's still had to keep afloat." Carter says, "There's a lot of associated expenses with it, and there's not a huge profit margins in coffeehouses. That's why I started selling food, because I can make a little more there. There's associated expenses, such as with music. If you want to play music, you have to pay licensing agencies these fees to do that which comes out to $1200 just to have music playing in your coffeehouse, which if you don't, people aren't going to come."
The Night Owl is currently still facing financial troubles as well, but have managed to double their fundraising funds since the Weekly covered their fundraiser, which raised a total of $3,500. They also have an upcoming event this Wednesday put together by community members as well.
In the same spirit of fundraising, Max Bloom's employee Mika Ying gave her reason for starting the Gofundme online:
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Keeping Max Blooms open has been a bit up and down recently but with help from the community, even with just the spreading of word, we can do something great here. I've seen this small location grow within it's walls and turn from a seedling to this ever thriving work area. From study sessions to punk shows the cafe has been open for all expressionist of any form. This is hard on a lot of people including myself. I almost didn't believe it was happening until recent events. With less than a month we hope we have an answer on if the cafe is staying. Ask us questions on why we're doing this or how you can help. Buying merchandise at the shop helps as well. Thank you for your kind hearts.
Dave Vebber, one of the organizers of the Max Bloom's event last Saturday, was inspired to help save the venue because the cafe shares a special place in his heart. Vebber has hopes of finding funding for Max Blooms to help keep it alive, and turn it into more of a cultural hub for the city of Fullerton. He believes that the freedom of expression is what separates the cafe from other coffee shops, but hopes that the same concept brought to helping Max Bloom's can be brought to help the Night Owl as well.
"This place means a lot to me. I met my band here, and a lot of people I consider friends. Hes given so much to the community just pouring his heart and soul just for a place for musicians, artists; just a place to come together," Vebber says. "So what I'm doing is trying bring the community together and get people to just give a little bit back, and just a small percentage of what Kevin's given us the last seven years to show we can make a profit, that people do care, that we can't shut it down, and to just keep it alive for the young people."
You can support Max Bloom's by going down to the cafe at 220 N Malden Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832 or by donating to the Gofundme online.