With the Fischerville Coffee House closing on Dec. 31, Mendota Heights is looking for a redevelopment planning grant from Dakota County to help rescue a historic property that has been plagued in recent years by continual owner turnover in a downturned economy, the Star Tribune is reporting.
Frank Fischer opened a general store in the building 1924 and the property has retained the name of Fischerville ever since.
But the coffee shop has changed ownership three times in as many years, and a recent deal to sell the building fell through.
"It's three funny little parcels in search of some kind of use," Jake Sedlacek, assistant to the city administrator, told the Star Tribune. "We recognize that we have this very nice building on a very tricky lot."
The land and building are owned by Drake Bank. A proposal to purchase a neighboring vacant lot and turn the building into a restaurant fell through in November of 2011 when Drake declined an offer for the property.
The Star Tribune spoke with Sedlacek and the coffee shop's most recent owner, Bob Engelhart, about the source of the building's problems:
[Sedlacek] believes a lack of parking and the proximity of two Caribou Coffees have hurt the coffee shop. "The competition in the coffee business is very tight," he said. He also said that the vacant service station detracts from the site and that the study would likely recommend removing it.
Bob Engelhart said he believes the coffee shop hasn't caught on is because all of the recent operators ran it as a side business. Both he and his wife had other jobs when they took over the coffee shop and boutique, although his wife now runs the boutique full time, he said. Although they acquired the businesses, they leased the building from Drake Bank.
"Stand-alone retail has issues. It has to be a destination," Engelhart said. "I do think somebody could make a go of it, but they would need to build out the kitchen, get decent signage, parking and maybe put in a patio." He said it's possible the business might succeed as a brewpub or a gourmet ice cream shop that could do well in the summer, drawing business from ballgame crowds at Mendakota Community Park across the street.