Musicians, customers perk up Mocha Maya’s
Recorder/Paul Franz Chris King of Mocha Maya's in Shelburne Falls
SHELBURNE FALLS — “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the perennial holiday film about a community pitching in to save civic-minded George Bailey from financial ruin. But this month, Mocha Maya’s is having its own “George Bailey” moment.
Last Wednesday, coffeehouse co-owner Chris King posted a Facebook message telling customers that “due to financial hardship, there is a strong likelihood that Mocha Maya’s will have to close its doors this winter.”
But that scenario is changing, now that friends, customers and musicians are rushing to the rescue. Business has perked up.
“The response has been amazing,” said King. “People can make a difference.”
Since opening in 2005, Mocha Maya’s has been a hub of community activities in this small village. Besides specialty coffee drinks, beer and alcohol, Mocha Maya’s puts on local art exhibits and coffeehouse concerts. In partnership with the senior center a few years ago, Mocha Maya’s hosted a “Conversation Cafe” about the community and age-related issues. It has hosted fundraising concerts to benefit flood victims, fire victims and others. It has been open some nights to air national TV shows “Sing-Off” and “America’s Next Top Model,” when local residents were guest stars. And it has shown film documentaries, televised football games, and during some Christmas seasons, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
King said talking about earnings is “a privacy matter,” but he wanted those reading his Facebook post to know that business was in trouble.
“If I didn’t do it now — while there’s time for people to make a difference — by the time they knew, it might be too late,” he said. “If you’re going to ask people for support, you have to be honest about it,” he said. “We’re not asking for people to buy something if they can’t afford it. It’s the people that can come in, who are semi-regular customers, that we’re asking for.”
For Shelburne Falls businesses, January really is “the cruelest month,” because there are far fewer tourists and area visitors than the rest of the year.
“While winter is very difficult, most businesses plan for that. We do,” King said. He said the coffeehouse usually sees a 50 percent drop in its winter customer base, compared to volume it has in summer. But for the first two weeks of January, the shop saw a 30 percent decrease below its normal winter customer base.
“I know there are a number of factors,” said King, when asked why business had fallen off. “It’s a rough economy, bad flu season.”
But one thing King learned from customers is they thought winter was the coffee shop’s busiest time of year — a time when more people come in for hot drinks and warmth.
It’s hard to tell when the shop is busy, because there are almost always people there, lingering over coffee and conversation, reading, or using the free wi-fi Internet while drinking their beverages.
“I love the fact that people come here to use the Internet,” said King. “On the other hand, it’s never been to a point where everyone at a table has a computer and there’s no place to sit.”
“My brother (co-owner Bruce King) and I are both optimistic people,” said King. “We’re hopeful that we’re going to get through this. And when we’re in a financial position, ‘pay it forward.’”
King said he and his brother have other ideas for special events that will bring more people to Mocha Maya’s, such as revamping its projection equipment, to show more documentaries there. They may also re-introduce game nights.
A “cash mob,” when supporters are to gather at the shop and buy things, has been organized for this afternoon. A benefit concert for Mocha Maya’s follows at 7:30 p.m., with Signature Sounds artist Kris Delmhorst and songwriter Dan Charness. Other musicians — the Brook Batteau group, Bright Lines and Pamela Means — will play a benefit concert for the coffeehouse Feb. 9.
These professional performers are giving their time to raise money for the coffeehouse, as are others later in the month, and the Academy at Charlemont is talking to King about holding “open mic” nights at the coffeehouse, to help out.
King said the shop is also selling prepaid cards that can be used later for store purchases, and that he may add bargains or other incentives to encourage card use.
Because of all the attention this week business “has been great, as it’s going now,” King said. “I don’t expect that this level of attention is going to stay, but if we maintain some of this (increase), it’s going to make a big difference.”
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277 .