Coffee shop closure rumor is baseless

Kamariea Forcier

A haze of smoke fills the room. The 10,000 Maniacs croon softly from the compact disc player behind the counter. Amidst the sounds of conversation, one can hear the hum of a cappuccino machine. And a constant stream of customers approaches the two employees, busy filling cups full of steaming joe.
Although rumors have been circulating the University area that the Espresso ExposÇ coffee shop in Stadium Village is about to be sold, owner Pat Weinberg said he has no intentions of selling the business.
“Over the last couple of months, I’ve had several realtors call me, asking me what I’m selling the place for, or what I’d take,” he said. “And I’d tell them no, the place isn’t for sale.”
Weinberg, who also owns the Purple Onion in Dinkytown, opened the popular coffee shop in 1991. He said business is good, and he cannot believe the rumor has persisted for several months. He doesn’t know how it got started.
But Weinberg said the rumor didn’t stop with the realtors. He recently got a call from his landlord inquiring about the business.
“There’s absolutely no truth to it,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg said the loss of some morning customers is probably because of increased competition in the immediate area. He said he is not concerned about that drop, however.
“Mostly it’s because there’s a lot of competition that wasn’t here when I first opened,” Weinberg said.
In Stadium Village, Espresso ExposÇ is one of several coffee shops. In an effort to attract more customers, Weinberg set up computers offering Internet access and word processing programs in the cafe last winter for customers.
The computer idea failed, however, because his clientele, students with free access to these features already, did not want to pay for the services.
“I lost money,” Weinberg said, “but thought it’s best to lick my wounds and go on.”
While franchise shops like Dunn Bros. Coffee Inc. and Espresso Royale Caffe might be popular, Espresso ExposÇ has won the hearts of smokers, said Karri Plowman, a regular customer of Espresso ExposÇ.
“The owner offers the only two places near to campus where you can smoke,” said Plowman, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore.
Plowman said he’s been a regular at Espresso ExposÇ for two years. Before that, he frequented the Purple Onion in Dinkytown.
“I like the small guys,” he said. “I don’t like that corporate b.s.” of the other places, Plowman said.
He heard the rumor that the Espresso ExposÇ was closing, but said he didn’t really believe it.
Plowman said that when he heard the rumors, he knew one question to the staff would clear up the problem. “And when they say no, we can trust them,” he said.
Weinberg said being a smoker doesn’t have much to do with his decision to allow smoking in his shops.
“Back in 1991 smoking wasn’t as big of a deal,” he said. “I know I do a lot of business just because people can smoke in here.”
But even non- and part-time smokers frequent the shop, said University student Joshua Bar-Lev.
“It’s a really nice, comfortable place to hang out,” he said.
Bar-Lev, an English major at the University, said he visits the coffee shop nearly every day.
“It’s a nice place to get studying done,” he said. “It’s also a meeting place for lots of regulars.”
Bar-Lev did not hear rumors of the closing, but said, “It’s kind of a terrifying prospect.”
“I know everyone here, and it’s a great place to hang out,” he said. “I’ve been in a lot of other coffee shops, but this one is really my favorite.”
Bar-Lev and others have nothing to worry about, said Weinberg.
“We’re doing just fine,” he said. “I think the coffee market is here to stay, (and it’s) those shops with good service and good coffee that are going to survive.”