Unless a last-ditch, grassroots effort succeeds, Newtown may have one less coffee shop come June 1.
Mocha Coffehouse proprietors Rob Kaiser and Scott Wolfman have informed their landlord they won't be renewing their lease due to problems turning a profit.
Kaiser is candid about the reasons the business has failed, citing his initial inexperience in the industry when he took over three years ago, the demands of his growing family, competition from Starbucks and the Blue Z, both of which opened after Mocha, and the general state of the economy.
On a recent warm spring morning, patrons engaged in animated conversation occupied a couple of the outdoor deck tables overlooking the Pootatuck River. Inside, another patron works on his computer, two women talk over coffee and pastries, and someone else stops in for a cup of coffee to go.
Across town, the environment and activity level at chain store Starbucks is markedly different: the parking lot is full, the door remains in constant motion and the line to order coffee, lattes and scones to-go moves quickly while moms and preschool children sit at tables drinking hot beverages and boxed chocolate milk.
After living in the area for 15 years, Kaiser said that running a local business for the last three years has given him more ties to the community. It's hard to fail in such a visible way, he said.
Regular patrons have offered support and condolences, Kaiser said. He was initially worried there would be a "stench of death" and people would avoid it, but this spring like most others has been good for business, he said.
But not all of Mocha's fans and customers are satisfied with merely offering condolences.
"It's not too late. We are hopeful that we can keep Mocha going," said longtime customer and friend, Ben Roberts, who is using social media to get the word out about the shop's impending demise.
He said he and others are concerned another business might not open during the tough economy.
"The town is investing tax dollars to improve infrastructure in Sandy Hook, so it's important that we have businesses that are vibrant and able to support that," said Roberts, who started a marketing campaign centered around a Facebook page called "Save Mocha Now!"
"It's never a good idea to have things go dark. I wouldn't have started the group and tried to intervene if I thought it would work itself out," he said. "Our group is here to try to help create a win for the community as well as for the landlord."
After a month there are more than 600 fans of Save Mocha Now! Many fans have left supportive comments about the shop's warm atmosphere, entertaining music scene, and scenic location.
"Mocha represents a place where artists of all kinds are supported and represented. As a musician, I absolutely have loved playing at Mocha since 2005," said Julie Sorcek, a member of the Fairfield Crossing band, which holds an acoustic jam at Mocha once a month. "It always feels like I am playing to my friends in my living room every single time that I have played at Mocha."
It remains to be seen if the grassroots movement will result in Mocha staying open or whether it will just be a heartfelt sendoff.
"Regardless of how things ultimately turn out we're going to try to do some special marketing to run a nice surge of business through here," Roberts said.