“Due to the unexpected loss of our finance person, keeping the doors open in this economy would just not the right move,” says co-owner Michael Canton.
The cafe is open until 2 p.m. today and Sunday. Canton said employees were notified on Friday night by e-mail that the cafe would close.
Gary Christensen, another of Iron Bird Cafe’s owners, and the one whom patrons would often see working inside the cafe, said it was he who decided to cut ties with the cafe and its ownership group (there were three owners and two investors).
Reached on Saturday morning, Christensen said there were “different financial problems during the whole course of the cafe” and that “it got to be too much.”
This may not mean the ultimate end of Iron Bird Cafe. Canton is hopeful he can find a buyer to take over. He says one potential buyer might keep everything — from the name to the employees.
“The most painful thing for me would be to just watch it shut down completely,” says Canton, who previously owned Javawava, across from Fresno High. “We already have a few people who are interested in buying it. I have absolutely no clue at this point what will happen. I would like to sell it. I would like to see it stay open. I think downtown needs it.”
Iron Bird Cafe opened in March 2010 in the north end of downtown, the centerpiece of the Iron Bird Lofts, one of a number of new housing developments in the area. The cafe hosted ArtHops, live music events, poetry slams and quickly became a popular “third space” for the creative community.
“We have a following, there’s no question,” Canton says. “People, for the past year, have gone out of their way to support us. Problem is, it takes a lot of a cups of coffee.”
In retrospect, the writing was on the wall for Iron Bird Cafe when it announced in June it would be scaling back its hours. That news brought significant discussion about Iron Bird’s role in the emerging Mural District and what it could be doing better. The cafe countered with a statement and new menu options.
“Like any area that’s growing, there are a lot of struggles,” says Reza Assemi, the developer of Iron Bird Lofts and the cafe’s landlord. “That said, with the right management and someone with experience, it’s a great location to do something.
While Assemi says it’s tough to see any business fail, he’s not looking at Iron Bird Cafe’s shutter as a failure for the entire neighborhood.
“It’s been 10 years that I’ve been down here, I don’t think one cafe has made the area happen. I think it’s the intersection of a lot of different things — a lot of housing, you got Fulton 55. One thing may not work, but I think it’s a great opportunity for another operator.”