Inspired by a visit to an Atlanta coffee house, former music industry executive Mike Zamarripa decided he wanted to open something similar close to home in Silver Lake. Zamarripa teamed up with a friend, Brett Schoenhals, a former controller at Buzz Coffee, and found a former doctors office in the north end of Silver Lake on Rowena Avenue to open up their new business. The reaction from many friends and family members was a “What-are-you-thinking?” response. Rowena had a lot of auto traffic to give the business visibility but there was little else – with the exception of auto repair shops and convalescent homes – to attract people to the strip.
But after opening The Coffee Table in 1997, Zamarripa and Schoenhals eventually established a thriving coffee house that was eventually joined by other restaurants – Blair’s, Edendale Grill, Michalengelo and Nicky D’s pizza – that have turned Rowena into a neighborhood dining destination. Now, however, the Coffee Table is preparing to close on Sept. 11 after a new property owner gave the Coffee Table 45 days to move out. That news has not only upset loyal Coffee Table customers but has raised worries about how the upcoming closure will affect the remaining Rowena Avenue restaurants and shops.
“What happens to Rowena is very important to us,” said Zamarripa, whose Coffee Table in Eagle Rock will remain open. “I’m not ready to give up on Silver Lake.”
Zamarripa is looking for investors to open a new Silver Lake location but is busy for now preparing for the closure of existing restaurant. In 2007, the previous property owner had proposed building about 60 housing units on the site but would leave a storefront space for the Coffee Table to return, Zamarripa said.
Earlier this year, Zamarripa was surprised to discover that the previous landlord had sold the property, which is now owned by the Fifiteen Group of Miami. Soon after, the Coffee Table received a 30-day notice – eventually extended to 45 days – to move out of the property. The lease “was amicably resolved” said Zamarripa but he does not know what the Fifteen Group has planned. “We have no idea if we be part of that,” Zamarripa said of any potential new development.
After signs announcing the Coffee Table’s closure were posted on Thursday, one of the nearby business owners expressed his concern about what the loss of the Coffee Table will do to foot traffic on Rowena, Zamarripa said.
Finding a new location in Silver Lake won’t be easy or cheap, and Zamarripa concedes that there is a lot more competition for the neighborhood’s coffee and restaurant dollars. Business at the Silver Lake Coffee Table did slip as new Silver Lake cafes and restaurants opened but Zamarripa wants to retain a presence in the neighborhood he calls home.