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[UPDATE] Iron Bird Cafe: It’s not all good in the ‘hood

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UPDATE: Iron Bird Cafe has addressed some of the concerns raised by Beehive commenters in this statement on its web site. A few headlines: Staff will be re-trained and quicker service with be emphasized. New menu items will be rolled out as well.

The bottom line is that we are listening to you and are committed to being a long-term fixture in downtown Fresno.

The official response comes at the urging of at least one local blogger (who happens to be a neighbor), and after an online survey started to circulate about what people would like to see at IBC.

What do you think of all this? Steps in the right direction? Too late?

ORIGINAL POST, 6/23: If you had asked me 24 hours ago to name one downtown business that had things going in the right direction, I probably would have said Iron Bird Cafe. Apparently, that’s not the case.

The popular coffee shop announced on Wednesday that it’s scaling back its hours starting next week, closing most days at 2 p.m. It’ll re-open in the evenings on ArtHop nights and for its Wednesday open mic night.

It was just last month that Iron Bird celebrated its one-year anniversary, and called itself “the landmark of the ‘New Downtown.’ ” All indications were that Iron Bird was just that — it was certainly a hub for the downtown creative community.

You can read a little more about the decision in this letter posted at the coffee shop and snapped by downtown dude Andrew Toschi.
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Here’s hoping this isn’t the beginning of the end for Iron Bird Cafe, and that things can get things back on track without anybody having to start a “Save Iron Bird” campaign.

Either way, if you’re an Iron Bird fan, probably a good idea to show them some support this week and next.

[photo: ironbirdcafe.com]

Responses to "[UPDATE] Iron Bird Cafe: It’s not all good in the ‘hood"

that sucks its a nice place, Im gonna go in there this weekend and buy somethin

This is concerning. IBC seemed to really embrace the “third space” model and tried to create an environment where creatives can meet and connect. This worked because of it’s original atypical hours. When they first opened downtown, they had hours that stretched from early morning to late night (I think they even stayed open until 1am on some days). With a serious scaling back of hours, I am concerned that they have moved from being a third space to being a coffee shop.

Does downtown need a good coffee chop? Sure.
Was downtown excited about a true third space? Yes.

Coffee is a commodity. IBC was selling the experience. Unfortunately, the experience has suffered since opening. The staff is somewhat apathetic and does not provide stellar service (easy to fix, btw), the coffee is good but not great, there has been little to no menu changes (other than crossing things off…feels negative), and now the hours have changed. I honestly will go less often, because I have to “think” about whether IBC is open or closed. Before, I just assumed it was open because I never had to think about the hours. I only thought about the space…the experience. Now I think about the commodity. This is NOT good.

james says:

I’ve been critical of the cafe lately, but I really think this is an effort to streamline operations so that they have a long-term presence in the area. While that’s alienating to me as a customer, I can’t be too hard on a business that knows when and where its widest (and narrowest) margins are.

That being said, some of these changes have been implemented already. I showed up for a cup of coffee at 9:20 one night last week, and the place was dark. And last Sunday, they closed at 2:00 – when I was in at 1:15, there was talk of closing even earlier. That’s frustrating.

stevecrozz says:

Sad news.

Shortening hours is tempting for a small coffee shop like Iron Bird because afternoons can be slow, but its bad for business. It only takes one or two times of showing up to a closed coffee shop until I stop trying.

Travis is right. If I’m meeting someone for coffee, I’ll go to the one I know is open, not the one that “might be closed.”

DrewMyo says:

i wonder if this is a direct result from the success of Fulton 55. Both venues are great, but in that area of town, there are only so many dollars to go around. Sounds like the two need to sit down and talk about how they can effectively work in conjunction with one another to maximize markets and profits.

Tim says:

I’m a huge fan of Iron Bird.

Depending on my schedule I will try and go anywhere from 1-4 times a week, sometimes for work and sometimes for pleasure.

When they shortened hours to scale back the morning operation, it meant I visited less.
The afternoon scale back will mean I will spend more time at Cafe Corazon.

It seemed like there was a huge emphasis on coffee quality when they first opened and this seems to have subsided. Their quality hasn’t moved in a positive direction.

I’m always struck (as someone who has spent years working in cafes of various kinds) by the large number of staff. I love the presence and the people (many are friends), but I’ve always wondered how they afford 4 or 5 (sometimes more?) bodies on the floor at a time. The shop could be run with 2 or 3, with some effort.

We will see. I’m using this as an opportunity to visit more in the morning and try to do my part, so to say.

Iron Bird is important, hope they last.

james says:

I thought that poster contained the same info that IBC handed out in fliers last week, and posted on their website on June 14: http://ironbirdcafe.com/Read/may-announcement

That said that they would be open till 9:00 p.m. on weekdays. The poster, though, says it’s only till 2:00 p.m. That’s beyond frustrating.

Again, I understand viability, but such a dramatic cut to access isn’t a good sign.

Jennifer says:

Sad to hear they’re having to change hours. I don’t often get a chance to go for coffee, but did enjoy going to IBC when I did.

It’s good to be a “third space,” but it all comes down to making enough money to pay the bills. Can the third spacers spend enough money to keep IBC open when they need/want it, even if it’s not a traditionally busy time for a coffee shop.

My husband and I see similar issues with our business — we want to support our customers with a place to act as a meeting place for our customers, but it takes sales to keep the doors open. Fortunately for us, the sales are there right now.

Richele says:

I love everything about IBC, even the imperfections! Some of my favorite local places might be considered a dive when compared to the shiny bright corporateness of restaurant chains! I hope we all give these local “gems” the chance to get their operations up and running, get the bugs worked out and have the opportunity to thrive!

Tim says:

Yeah, it appears the poster is an addendum, of sorts, to the previous announcement.

Two quick cuts in hours don’t send the right messages, viability-speaking.

Kiel says:

I love the location and sense of place. And the owner Gary is energetic and kind. It was a real anchor. When it 1st opened I went often to eat and get drinks. After some slow service, messed up order and generally bland food, I stopped eating there.

However, it was still a great place to have an morning or afternoon meeting over coffee, or an evening pick me up when working late.

I hope it does survive and gets back to some late hours. However, if it doesn’t it may be a good opportunity for a new business to swoop in and take advantage of lower start up cost.

Kiel says:

Night Owl Cafe

The thing is, IBC was shiny from the start. The dive vibe works sometimes, but it is a bad business move to set a standard that cannot be maintained.

As a downtown resident, I want IBC to survive and thrive. But I desire a third space. I don’t mind a coffee shop, and if they need to refocus on the core, then so be it. I just will use it less often because of the shift in hours.

I do not think Fulton 55 has hurt IBC. I might be wrong. I would imagine there is increased foot traffic. Maybe people just are not into hot coffee on how summer days? But if that is the issue, then I go back to my commodity argument.

Reinvention is key to business survival. One thing I do know about Gary and IBC: They want to succeed and they care about the community. I believe their open minds and focus on making it work, they will come up with a model that should be successful.

Malcolm Sosa says:

It would be a great location for a Starbucks.

melanie says:

It would be nice if the owners of Iron Bird Lofts (Granville) would reconsider their policy of not allowing alcohol to be sold on premises. Many “third space” type places in Seattle also serve a very small sampling of wine, beer and Irish coffees. This would help attract an evening crowd. Also, the wait for one cup of espresso-based coffee is way too long for a stop in quick and grab a cup on the go. One other issue I’ve had is that the regular latte, cappuccino, etc. cost almost a dollar more than they do at world-renowned coffee shops in Seattle.

I really hope this all gets worked out. I think IBC is one of the coolest things to happen in downtown, and all of Fresno for that matter (along with Fulton 55 and Wishon Row – not that I’m partial or anything).

Eunice says:

Oh, c’mon now. That’s not the point of this story.

Eunice says:

I agree. Seems it would fit well with the majority of the customers, who seem to be on in their mid to later 20s.
Problem is, isn’t the process of acquiring a liquor license tedious, lengthy and pricey?

JML says:

What about the multiple Teazer locations as an alternate third space?

According to its website, the stores in River Park and Tower District will be open till 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays through August. The store by the convention center downtown is open till 11 p.m.

SXR says:

I actually think wine might be a good addition. It would certainly draw new people in.

I adore Iron Bird and stop there for lunch or a drink whenever I can, but as a broke Maderan who sleeps in later than she should, I think this will seriously affect my spending there. I’ll be there whenever I can, but it won’t be easy. I totally don’t mind spending $3.50 on their tiny mochas because they’re absolutely amazing. I’ve always enjoyed the staff, the atmosphere, the drinks… It’s truly one of my favorite places. I hope things take a turn for the better for them. Maybe a benefit show at Fulton 55 would be helpful?

Matthew says:

I for one, am not surprised by this announcement. The Cafe was awesome when it first opened, and I loved going there. Then, as Downtown started to evolve and change, the cafe seemed to regress instead. Its prices went up, its portions got smaller, its service sloooooowed, and its menu items did not change. It seems that their entire image started to falter, and I haven’t seen anything new or innovative recently. How about a dinner menu? What about full service dining? I understand that it is not necessarily the idea of a “cafe” but you can only keep interest peeked so much on 5 choices of soup and sandwiches. The quality is always outstanding, but I’m sure that is a huge expense, and results is a smaller quantity of food. Don’t get me wrong, it has a great vibe, has been a great hub of activity, and has a ton of potential… but something seems wrong with the business model, and unfortunately instead of revamping their business, the solution has just been to cut hours instead.

Mike says:

Although this is certainly a sad state of affairs for IBC, I am in hopes that some restructuring of operations will help to revamp their business and again regain its initial success. I will also agree that the quality of customer service needs a bit more finesse and that includes the portions, price and overall staff service. Gary is awesome and is the warm and friendly face of the Cafe daily and his energy to create an appealing establishment gets kuddos. However, I think the cutting of hours is a mistake and may be the ultimate demise of the Cafe. In short, maybe some of that early on entertainment, service and originality needs to make a comeback.

Famous says:

Reposted from Fresno Famous (http://fresnofamous.com/06/23/11/new-hours-iron-bird-cafe)

Mostly, this is a personal inconvenience. This is my neighborhood coffee place and I like being able to go by at any reasonable hour and have it open and ready for me. It is also a visual marker for the neighborhood and having it go dark at 2 p.m. just. looks. bad.

But I can’t fault them for doing what they need to stay open and make money. After all, it is a business. Plus, in a situation like this, aren’t some hours are better than none?

That said, slashing hours seems desperate and it makes it look like there is a lack of vision and trust in the business plan.

This is not a bash on the cafe. I care about IBC. Not only as a local business, but as an important part of my community. One that employs people I know and has been instrumental in moving its section of downtown forward. I want to see it succeed.

How can we best help make that happen?

james says:

The hour cutbacks started long before Fulton 55 opened. I’m not saying the new venue hasn’t cut into the audience, but that sense of “place” started to shift months before Fulton 55′s first show.

james says:

“Plus, in a situation like this, aren’t some hours are better than none?”

I’d answer a hard “no” to that, Josh. Customer expectations aren’t set on “maybe” and “sometimes” – it’s accessibility and consistency that help to retain customer loyalty (note that other things can help to create that loyalty, initially – things like tasty, fair trade coffee).

If we want to see revitalization continue at its current pace, we can’t turn away new visitors to downtown with “limited hours.” How is that any different than anything that’s gone in on the Mall – open all day, until the rest of us get off at 5:00?

JJJ says:

This is terrible news. Cutting back hours so drastically means they’re on their last legs. Why did they wait so long to make changes? As others said, more menu items, new drinks etc could have drawn more people.

Hopefully they hold on until the new apartments the next block over are done. That should provide a larger customer base.

Kiel says:

Clearly, the lack of vehicle traffic on the Fulton Mall is holding this business back and bankrupting all revitalization attempts…

Heather says:

I’m really bummed by this news. It’s become my habit to show up at IBC around 2 p.m. and hang for a bit. Obviously, their closing at 2 kills that habit now. I live in north Fresno, and it was worth it to me to drive downtown just to have a nice place to do some work (I’m writing this comment from IBC now, as a matter of fact.)

Also a bad sign: Monday and Tuesday night I tried to go to Joe’s Steakhouse for dinner. Both nights they were closed. I finally checked their web site and saw they, too, have cut hours, now serving dinner just Thursday through Saturday.

It seemed things were starting to look up for downtown; I hope these hour cuts aren’t a sign of bad things to come.

Unfortunately for me, I have fewer reasons to come downtown.

robin says:

Fresno, stop taxing us all to death and maybe small businesses can succeed!

Pook says:

I gotta agree with Jim on this one. I’ve never stepped foot into the Iron Bird later than 3pm for a meeting and 7-8pm socially. It’s a wonderful cafe, but their shift in hours has essentially closed their doors to me.

Ultimately Granville or whoever holds their lease might want to rethink some of their rates or find a way to give them a break. Because without the cafe tying the neighborhood together, their supplimentary business spaces will likely suffer as a result.

If it were up to me, I’d say ditch their food menu. If it was once good, it has seriously slid downhill. Expand the pastry selection and look to larger serving sizes for the espresso drinks. And also, refocus the staff on being able to make drinks in a speedier fashion. On a non-busy night it can still take 10-15 mins to get a mocha.

But I criticize with love. I’ve been quite happy to pay a little more for a smaller cup, simply because I truly enjoy the ambience of the IBC. It hearkens back to the old days of Java Cafe in Tower. I just hope they can get an injection of investment capital or a break on their lease so that they can truly establish themselves as the cornerstone of a revitalized downtown.

-Pook

The Fresnan says:

Heyohhhh! Nice one.

Miguel Santos says:

Yeah. I was going to suggest opening up a lane of traffic through it to revitalize it…

Anywhere laboratories says:

DON’T PANIC! There are a couple things that we need to keep in mind here.

Yes it sucks that IBC has to play with their hours, but we can’t run out on them like lemmings. Drink local, dear friends. I have worked in the coffee industry for over 10 years and there is no way that an independent can price their coffee the same as the evil empire and keep their doors open in our dear town. And YES it is one or two more dollars well spent to support our neighbors in business instead of the Walmart of coffee.

It seems some are always looking to throw up their hands and say, “See downtown will never work.” I still stand by my belief that in the hands of small business entrepreneurs, downtown Fresno will continue to grow into what it could and should be even if IBC closes it’s doors(God forbid). Now more than ever people are ready for downtown to be the heart of a vibrant city.

I Heart Downtown

Tower Girl says:

Well unfortuately it sounds like numerous Tower restaurants. You tell people how great it is and then plan a night out to let’s say Oggi, Samba (or whatever 3 or 4 other places have been there since Daily Planet) you get there and the hours state “OPEN” and they are closed and you have to make last minute plans to go elsewhere. All it takes is once and you never plan to go back. This happened at Oggi in the Tower just last week, sign on the door. “Closed tonight, sorry for any inconvenience”. Sad to see it as they are a very good restaurant, pricey but good. I know times are tight but don’t these places have a plan in place that can include a bit of a loss before they become a successful thriving business. Most businesses take several years before becomming profitable.

james says:

Seriously? A business generating $30,000 a month pays the City $35.33 in taxes.

That 0.1% of revenue is keeping you from succeeding? Me thinks not.

Travis says:

One thing that I do like about coffee houses is the ability to discover new singer/songwriters. Sometimes the open mic provided that, but a purposeful show from time to time might help. Maybe it’s oy once a month. Maybe it a dedicated night of the week. Let us come to IBC and discover something. Most will talk about discovery (there’s gold in them thar hills).

Maybe it’s not part of their core business and wrangling talent might cause a distraction. But I’d love to discuss way to make IBC a source of discovery. I know it has allowed several people to discover downtown Fresno.

Ben McEntee says:

yeah, but it was funny.

p.s.: love IBC very much and am saddened by the news.

james says:

Clever, and a good point, though the argument of “accessibility” expand beyond parking proximity and store hours.

kidcapri73 says:

When they first opened I was there 3 to 5 times a week for a month and a half or so. Nice ambiance, decent menu selection and pretty good food. My favorite thing to order were the juice blends, but after a month or so they stopped having some of the ingredients for many of the blends and began making stuff up, usually things I could do at home. The explanations didn’t make sense and the cup sizes varied from day to day so there was real inconsistency in the product. Not to mention the socializing going on between employees or between employees and their friends who would drop by which meant having to wait for them to finish their visiting before they would begin your order. That said, it’s a terrific space a wonderful concept for a cafe. It would be sad to see a 24 hour donut/chinese food/burger joint taking over.

james says:

I discovered Kornbread through IBC. Every Wednesday evening for the last six months.

It’s why I stopped working late on Wednesdays.

Yaj says:

Awe, I’m a huge fan of IBC. And I don’t even drink coffee. I get their tea and desserts! IBC has always been a great social meeting spot for me. I meet friends there after work, before a show or on a lazy evening just needing to get out of the house. Certainly these new hours will slightly affect that, but now I just have to plan my gatherings for the morning hours instead. Sure it sucks, yes it would be nice to have the long hours but because I’m a member of this community and want to support IBC however I can, I’ll make the extra effort around these new hours.

Perhaps instead of pointing fingers, let us pull our resources and send IBC ideas. IBC has these great big walls, perfect for a projector to show some indie movies in the summer months. Maybe charge $10 bucks, throw in a coffee or tea with dessert and enjoy a movie at IBC. Or perhaps, you know partner up with another local business. Hey, how about letting Dusty Buns share the evening hours? I’ll gladly enjoy my Le Grilled Cheese with an ice cold coffee or two, inside a cool space.

@dollgina says:

Haha, James. I remember tweets about that.

I once went to IBC on a Wednesday night to meet a friend to catch up, not realizing it was Open Ick Night. We quickly left and went to Starbucks (sad, I know, but we wanted to talk and she’s in AA so I didn’t want to drag her to a bar or, unicorns forbid, Revue, you know?).

Then, on a (non art-hop) Thursday evening, some group was setting up some crazy tent/stage/something just outside IBC’s front door. It was confusing because they even had event tape I had to lift and duck under to get out. After those two events, I stopped going on weeknights, cos I was scared of what would happen next!

I do like IBC, even though they change their hours every 12 minutes and even though sometimes their baristas forget to make my drink, and even when they call me sweetie like I’m five years old. I do like the vibe and the wifi and seeing my friends, and yes, let’s have wine!

Brian L Baker says:

It’s the EXACT same thing that this same owner did to Javawava when he owned it. No real surprise. No commitment to excellence in the coffee or food, will make people stop coming, forcing less hours, until it is dead.

Expect to hear rumors of it being for sale now. It is in a death spiral.

Too bad, it’s a great concept with a great location, but the owner needs to think outside the box more, to survive.

@dollgina says:

One time, one of the employees stopped taking my order midsentence so he could go straighten some furniture that a customer had moved. He was very upset that they would have the nerve to do so! It was more amusing than frustrating, but still.

I know I’m off topic, but this is the Beehive, yo!!

famous says:

James: I guess my point RE: the the hours is this: would you rather have IBC open for fewer hours, or an vacant spot?

Brian L Baker says:

James, what, or who, is Kornbread?

fresnobites says:

Judging by the amount of comments people clearly like IBC and would hate to see it close. I would never wish that on a business, especially one that’s trying to be part of the downtown solution.

With that said, my only experience there a few weekends ago wasn’t that great. The employee that helped me didn’t smile, didn’t ask me if I wanted food, and didn’t thank me for my business. In this economy, you have to at a minimum be friendly to your clients, let alone thank them. Also, why no up-sell.

Don’t get me wrong I think we all hate the routine up-sell. Obviously since he didn’t say hello or recognize me as a regular, wouldn’t it be a good idea to tell me what they specialize in and why I should eat it? I’m usually pretty hungry so it wouldn’t have been that hard of a sell.

Then after getting my cup (with no coffee in it) I turned around to find the pumps and pump my own coffee. I thought this place was high-end? Have they always done this. I guess I misunderstood what they were all about.

I mean I don’t expect to be coddled at a coffee shop but I can get that service, and quite frankly coffee, at some of the gas stations in town.

Just for a moment, compare your experience at Iron Bird to Cafe Corazon. Leo recognizes new customers, greats them and explains what they’re all about. If your a regular he knows your name.

Then when you order a cup of coffee, it’s poured through a clever dripper to maximize flavor and quality. There are no pumps. The coffee is made to order, the beans are roasted in house, and it’s nearly the same price.

From the people that have commented thus far, which a lot are business owners themselves with expertise in the customer experience, take some time and meet with IBC directly to toss around a few ideas, or at least offer to. One thing that stood out to me when I was there was out of the 10 or so people there, no one was eating, anything! Why not? Socializing? Free wi-fi with coffee? Bad food?

Nikki says:

I was thinking the same thing!! I used to love Java Wava and it went to hell and now IBC which i used to enjoy has done the same thing….someone with the right business sense would do very well there. I mean look at the business alone in the people who live in the area I know people who are more likely to get in their cars and drive then walk downstairs due to the lack of quality and high prices. It’s one thing to charge high if it’s good but it’s just not. I drive to those lofts regularly from across town and I always stop somewhere else for my coffee even if it’s out of the way.

Alan says:

It is easy to understand the frustration being voiced by people about the changing hours of the Iron Bird Café. People get into a routine, find a place they like, and then are told its availability is reduced. Not fun! But what most people don’t understand is that, other than franchise operations, new businesses are a “work in progress� despite the best of business plans. In fact, the most successful businesses are consistently seeking ways to avoid getting “stale� and finding new ways to meet their customers’ needs.
The Iron Bird Café is no exception. Yes, mistakes have been made, perhaps opportunities missed. But the current changes that are being made serve but one purpose – to give the owners some breathing space to keep the Café open long enough for the short-term growth that is taking place in the “New Downtown� to occur as well as modest improvement in the economy to allow resumption of the “old� hours – and more. It is also important to note that the five owners of the Café, all of whom are Fresno natives, have a strong commitment (perhaps “passion� is more appropriate) to making whatever contribution they can to help Fresno meet its full potential.
This requires patience on the part of not only the owners and management, but the public as well.

559rell says:

You know, I just have to add emphasis to that important comment from fresnobites! Spot on!
I’m not really a coffee drinker, but I go to IBC ever-so-often, just to support the business, the community (that needs what IBC should be), and downtown Fresno.
BUT, I never really felt welcome enough to want to go there for IBC’s sake.
The employees there don’t seem bad (although things did seem to move kinda slow), it’s just that I never was offered anything “delicious”, “fun”, “new”, etc. I mean, the Facebook posts (that I love) were WAY more inviting than most employees I’ve ever spoke with at the cafe.

Basically, you have to sell YOURSELF on what might be a good purchase… and it really shouldn’t be that way at a place as large and nicely designed as the IBC.

You gotta hate the monstrous corporate chains that kill small business, but those annoyingly precise training regimens are built and coached to for a reason: They generate revenue via repeat business!!!

Make them want more! Don’t just settle on the fact that you’re the only show in (down)town. I end up giving a tip out of sheer support for downtown Fresno, instead of a larger tip because of anything anyone did for me while I was there.

Some businesses slack off when they’ve got lines down the street and have no worries. I think others tend to get comfortable with a little and wake up when it’s too late to save their last.

I can only hope it isn’t that bad, but I’ll almost never make it back to IBC with those hours.

~Rell.

Fernando X says:

Only if they roll out the old logo, yeah.

Fernando X says:

Desperatley needing drive-through access.

Fernando X says:

I had my Meatloaf epiphany there too.

Brandon says:

I haven’t been to IBC in months due to poor customer service and subpar food/beverage. If they stepped it up in those respects I’d happily swing by more often. However, from the comments I am reading, it seems like it has changed little since I last went.

Say what you will about Java Wava, but at least the employees were generally friendly and attentive. At Iron Bird it always seemed like they were more focused on their co-workers. If the place was packed all of the time their errors, poor customer skills, etc would be expected and maybe even excused from time to time, but in a place with such light volume(at least when I visited) it just screamed indifference.

Natali says:

I adore the idea of combining forces with Dusty Buns. Not sure how feasible it is, but I’d probably return anywhere for Dusty Buns food- and Dusty Buns food with a coffee chaser and AC? I think that might be my heaven ;-)

Natali says:

Sorry- meant to add on to my comment that if Dusty Buns and IBC did combine forces- let’s not mess with Thursdays because Cafe Corazon is amazing as well. :-)

I was there since the opening of IBC and I honestly never understood how it was going to sustain with it’s business model.

Sure, the third space concept is awesome and works in many cities but I never thought Fresno was ready for it. They never really promoted themselves as a third space rather than a coffee shop and cafe.

And I agree also with other comments that the level of service there was always sub par. I lived upstairs and I’d come down for a sandwich or drink probably a few times a week when they opened but constantly they always forgot my food, messed up my order, made me wait 20 minutes for on sandwich without every really saying sorry or offering to comp me anything. Even one time I called down at 8:45 to place a order for dinner and the guy rudely told me no more orders even though the menu clearly said food until 9:00.

Anyway, I hope they are able to turn around and make things right and figure out how to adapt their business so downtown can still thrive.

Bill says:

Cutting hours cuts revenue. IBC has alienated many of their customers (see 50 posts above) that will now not be attending their eatery. If the business plan is to wait till Fulton Village opens as to have a larger clientele then IBC will be closed or sold soon. As everyone has mentioned low quality products at to high of a price combined with poor customer service seems to be the problem. No matter how many people live in the area if these issues aren’t fixed then there is no point. They have to many employees. And 5 owners??? Wow I didn’t know that thats crazy! Soooo if they’re are 5 of you why do you even have anyone working for you between 5 owners that place could be ran and have $0 in payroll. The cafe is a huge draw for people to move to Iron Bird and with these new hours the locals (some of whom spend $50 a week at the cafe) now will have to find somewhere else to enjoy a cup of coffee at night or just a place to catch a quick bite after work. I love what the cafe did and the concept, but it seems execution, planning and decision making are the nails in the coffin.

Jonah Oscam says:

I really hope the owners/management are reading the comments here and taking some of the advice and will improve on things. Mainly customer service. Which seems to be a recurring theme with a lot of the complaints. Perhaps as that improves more paying customers will frequent their establishment.

The first time I went to IBC they had discontinued their much touted fruit dessert platter, after only a few weeks of being open. The platter had been reviewed on a number of local review sites and enticed me to go. I was disappointed but still had a good experience. I would like to see them succeed because it really is the anchor tenant of those lofts.

I have a few suggestions. Wild as they may be. Take them as Hail Mary or Last Ditch Effort Suggestions.

A. Easy Fix
1. Improve customer service
2. Address reasonable customer concerns/complaints that don’t cost much money and implement changes.
3. Stock more in the pastry shelf. (It looks bad when it’s empty.)
4. Improve coffee quality.
5. No more self serve coffee.
6. Serve said coffee to customer.
7. Improve food quality or eliminate it if not true focus.

Increase Revenue during late hours

1. Apply for a liquor license/convince landlord to allow alcohol.
2. Wine Bar at night.
3. Speakeasy at night (Not a club/ same chill atmosphere and music. Just serving booze. No dancing.

james says:

Alan, passion is essential to success – but it can’t stand in place of a well thought-out business plan. The drastic cuts are indicators that such a plan has been missing.

Of the five owners, how many can operate the register? The barista equipment? The kitchen equipment? Have they, collectively, tried to float the slow hours, without keeping paid staff on the clock?

I could go down a list of questions based on all of the feedback listed in these 60 comments alone, but that’s such an easy place to start.

Also, when talking about “old” hours, are we talking about the hours from two weeks ago, two months ago, or last summer? It’s getting hard to keep up with these things.

David says:

Really Travis? I expected better from you.

Let’s think about this in context for a second:

IBC opened in 2010, in the middle of a recession, and has managed to survive. As someone who has made a career out of working with small businesses, you could at least give them credit for that. They’re clearly getting something right if they’ve survived this long, especially considering that their prices are not exactly competitive.

IBC opened in an emerging growth area not yet known to most of the city and, despite the massive growth in downtown residents(kudos to you for being a part of that, btw), you can’t sustain a business purely on “locals” when there are only a few hundred new apartments downtown.

Despite the cutbacks, IBC continues to support the arts, including ArtHop and Open Mic night. How many other coffee shops do that?

Finally, IBC is a business, and businesses have payroll to maintain and bills to pay.

So, kindly drop the negativity and put some of that “creative energy” and business acumen into devising some effective new revenue generators for IBC. Thus far, all I’ve seen you do here is spout buzzwords like “third space” and “reinvention”, and discuss making IBC a source for “discovery” I’m sorry, but let’s stay on the topic of making the cafe profitable before using it as a launchpad for your comedy career.

In the meantime, if your concerned about “thinking” about whether IBC is open or not, here are 5 easy ways to remember.

1. Call them.

2. Check their Facebook page (easily done from a phone).

3. For that matter, make a note of the hours on your phone.

4. Write down the hours on a card and stick it in your wallet.

5. Tattoo the new hours on your hand.

So, please stop talking about visiting the IBC less frequently. Just stick a Keurig in the Hashtag for those times when you can’t get in to the cafe.

bradley says:

Cashflow is obviously a concern.

The only point in reducing hours is to cut payroll and utility costs.

When you are at that point, two things are in play:
A. Struggling just to keep the doors open.
B. Conserving remaining cash reserves to survive long enough to enact some change.

There is a remarkable amount of consistency in the comments above.
1. IBC has many loyal customers
2. Service is cited in virtually every complaint
3. Stale menu is stifling purchases
4. changing hours is stifling visits

Take advantage of #1 by fixing #2, reinvigorate #3, and stop doing #4.

If you can do 2-4 and do it fast and well enough, you have a shot at a turnaround.

However, if IBC is trying to conserve cash while for the other properties to open to provide more customers — the same problems they have now will doom them then — but with even more severe cashflow issues.

Claire L says:

I worked in customer service for 15 years and for me, it’s a big deal. A smile, a thank you, a double check, friendly suggestion, or update… are all actually very small things that make a huge difference.
I am turned off by employees who choose to socialize ( with each other or with friends) over taking care of the customers. Not that I don’t want employees to have a good time.I quite enjoy being in a place where the employees are getting along and having fun… but at the same time I don’t want to walk in and feel as if *I*, the customer, am being an imposition. It’s a fine line to walk, but not impossible.
I agree with the idea that in these economic times having stellar customer service is a must. In fact, in a place where one feels welcomed and appreciated even having to wait longer for a mocha is no big deal.

David,
I’m sorry my post came across as negative. My intention was to point out that IBC is actually more than “just a coffee shop.” People can get coffee anywhere: home, corp giant, free from work, etc. Hell, we intentionally put cheaper coffee in The Hashtag so people would go to Cafe Corazon to get REAL coffee.

My use of “buzzwords” as you call them, was really pointing out what other people have said. IBC (even Java Wava back in the day) is a neighborhood meeting spot, a place for community to come together. The “discovery” I was referring to was not just a new singer or songwriter, but discovering downtown. On many, many occasions, I have purposely help meeting at IBC with people who never venture downtown. Their response: “Wow, there is a whole community down here. Cool vibe.” They do not mention the coffee, they mention the experience. I feel IBC has moved away from that. It is a business. And as a person who has made the career choice to help businesses grow, I am acting as an outside party (with an obvious person interest in seeing my neighborhood third space thrive) desperately wanting businesses to move beyond the commodity stage — commodity mindset generally focus on reducing costs instead of increasing revenues.

The other things many of us (myself included) are doing is speculating. That is lame on my part…I get that. We do not know the whole story. We are just going off a few signs here and there. In my opinion, something might be amiss in the business and IBC is a business that needs support…not charity or a “Save IBC” rally, but support. And sometimes that support comes in the form of objective insight.

So, Dave, I hope this clears things up for you. I have no interest in performing comedy at IBC (not the right venue…but a smart audience), I have 100% interest in seeing them succeed (business failure is not good for anyone), and I use words like “third space,” “reinvention,” and “discovery” because I believe in those concepts as sounds ways to move beyond coffee as a commodity.

Buy Local….
James and I have this conversation about once a month. Sir Collier and I are fans of buying local. I will not speak for my flannel-wearing, flip-flopping friend, but he probably agrees…

Big chain stores can offer subpar products with subpar service because they have marketing budgets that can pay for advertising that counteracts the subpar experience. If they lose one customer, they can “buy” another three. This is why I get so annoyed with big national chains. They see me (and treat me) as replaceable.

Locally owned and operated business do not have that luxury. IBC management/owners (well, I can say this about Gary) get the local connection. For some reason this is not communicated to the staff. If staff members are not working out, train them up or get them out. Subpar staff is costing (yes, costing) IBC money. Period. I know the economy is bad. I know unemployment is high. I know that as a boss it sucks to fire anyone. But sometimes, bad employees need to go. It is better to get ride of one or two to save the entire business.

Local businesses thrive (and die) based on word of mouth. IBC does not need a huge marketing budget (I still recommend 15 to 20 percent of revenues be spend in marketing), it needs a solid word of mouth focus. The comments above about poor service and dull menu are pretty easy and cheap to fix. I am willing to do my part to help. Hell, I’ll even volunteer James too.

People do not buy local with lower expectations, they usually have higher ones. The customer expects a relationship because they know the ownership is listening. IBC and its customers just need to work on their relationship.

Lisa A says:

I live at the lofts and have a massage studio right next door to IBC. I buy there often (a conscious choice in support of a neighbor who I want to see succeed), I send clients there (and will continue to do so even when I move the spa to a bigger location on Kern St. in a few weeks), and my daugher sometimes hangs out there with friends. It’s been really convenient being able to grab a late lunch or dinner to go when I’m too rushed to cook, so the 2pm close will affect me too, but I will still continue to support them when I can. I think IBC can make it if they renew their focus, offer choices on the menu that their customers really want, and become more lean and efficient. They are obviously trying to do that–we’re just witnessing those growing pains. There were times when I felt that something needed to be brought to the attention of the owners, and I said something. I’m a fan of one-on-one communication which gives someone the opportunity to help or fix what needs fixing. They have always been open to suggestions. I can tell you that they are listening to the comments, and I’m wishing them all the best.

james says:

What’s the difference to someone coming to the area at 4:00 in the afternoon? Still looks vacant.

Y’all listed a lot of stuff (myself included). I am meeting with IBC next week and wanted to gather a little data. I ask three questions here: http://bit.ly/IBCfeedback

Please take the time to answer.

CoffeeHead says:

“Don’t these places have a plan?” Yes Tower Girl it is called life savings and hope

Sarah says:

I deeply enjoy the IBC for the menu items (when they are in stock) and there quality. My biggest complaint is the motif/interior design. While modern and functional it is not very welcoming. The lines and cool feel of the metal and concrete should be soften with plush furniture and color.

Narsty says:

“Typically Slow Summer Months”? Wouldn’t that imply that you would have been there for summers… not just one summer. Looks like another case of Fresnoitis. Business owners get sick of trying to make money and sick of their business, aka laziness. You need at least 5 years open consistently if you want to make it in any city. Thanks for another half-assed attempt.

ed says:

most businesses know that the summer can be slow. i would imagine that a coffee shop, especially one with owners that have worked at, managed and owned other shops especially understand the ‘typically slow summer months.’

Liz says:

The IBC is a great idea, and I want it to succeed. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:
Food: I stopped ordering food there quite a while back. Why? Because the service is slow, but more importantly, because too often, I was told that they were out of some ingredients. How about offering fewer items, but improving the availability, quality, and service?
Coffee: I don’t like the thermos pump things. Espresso drinks? Allow 19-20 minutes prep time.
Service: Slow. Staff members often seem scattered and even uncertain about how to prioritize their tasks. Many employees are friendly, cute, charming, etc., but it’s obvious that management could streamline things better.
Decor: It’s urban, hip, cold, and it echoes.
Music: I heartily approve of having musicians in to play. Please provide a large area rug or mat, to reduce the echoes created by the hard surfaces. That’s a lot of concrete.

IBC, I want to love you more. I want you to succeed, open early, and close late. It’s up to the owners and management to make it happen. I will be your regular customer again.

Dan says:

It is obvious by the number of comments on this post that people enjoy the IBC and want IBC to be open and available for us when we want a cafe.

With this update posted by Mike, it appears that IBC is taking our comments to heart. I for one will do my part, all of us should show our support by committing to at least one visit a week for the next month. More if you can. We cared enough to post a comment, we should care enough to check on IBC’s progress.

Let’s distinguish our comments from bashing and demonstrate the spirit they were posted in which was constructive and supportive.

austinmom says:

What a fabulous idea! I hope everyone else does the same so there will be a change. They didn’t change the hours to bum people out.

austinmom says:

YOU NAILED IT. There has been a change and we felt it. Management has changed there are some people missing that had a great vibe and real passion. I also felt NEW management is only after bottom line (in this recession though not too dickish, but still…you can FEEL it). Just let management KNOW when you go in. HEY, What happened to the good vibe and happy employees? What’s changed?!! Unless they get that you get that things are different nothing will change and you can post till you are purple, but the people who give a damn about what you think aren’t there until you tell them in person to be. So I say: Get up my friend, dust the couch from your booty march in there and say “I want the passion back damn it!! The coffee is NOT ENOUGH! Get back to me.

austinmom says:

Use your “smart” phone and call first. All you are saying is, I’ll go to Starbucks because I am insensitive and ignorant of how difficult it is to run a Small Biz in a kick you in the crotch economy. You are saying I am too lazy to help a small biz. I can’t call first. How big is your meeting Gordon Gecko? Seriously? Unless you are closing a million dollar deal, remember who you are and that you like the Iron Bird and back it up with a call and your $9, playah!

austinmom says:

Melanie is a GENIUS!! xoxoxox

austinmom says:

Volunteer.

austinmom says:

No, seriously. Just go when they are open, tell them to their face what you want. Stop talking about them unless it’s positive. Meet your friends there (when they are open) facebook about how great it is to your north bound friends. It’s not that hard. Don’t let the IBC die for stupid reasons. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN FRESNO!

austinmom says:

James have you been digging through trash bins?

austinmom says:

Are you the cpa or standing by the counter with a clicker? Tell me, how much is rent? Payroll? Insurance? Electricity? How much are the extra fees to keep grounds up etc? How much do they pay for phone and utilities? Janitorial services? Food? Do you know that if a restaurant makes more that 20% off food they are stoked? Are you pulling figures from a file or your ____? How much do they pay for marketing? Advertising? Have they paid off their original cost to open? What percentage do they pay credit card companies for people who use their card for $1.99 purchases? What’s left of the $ 1.99 after that? Who do they pay to do payroll? What do they pay in work mans comp? HOw many business do you own or have owned?

austinmom says:

Than you LISA! You are awesome and I wish you the best in your new space. PEOPLE! Just keep supporting them. Tell me, have you ever hit a rough spot in your life where maybe you could’ve done better or been better. /but now, in retrospect are happy people stood by you when you weren’t “perfect” because they saw your potential? HMMM? Dig down.

austinmom says:

Fresno you are fickle. Pick something you like stick by it when things get tough. Communicate. If not stop acting so exasperated by all the corporations coming in. Stop wondering why things are the way they are. Don’t like it? MOVE! Otherwise, help, support, love. Jeesh! PS did you all know that food carts are HUGE in major cities? Just sayin’ Fresno look around, embrace what little uniqueness is there. Then go to TWEE and buy me somethin’ bitchin!

Tim says:

Austinmom, did you just get internet?

austinmom says:

Tim made a funny