Coffee shop owner says rent increase putting him out of business

Photo by Tereasa Nims. Benny Morawa (left), Alex Sorenson, Chris Stonebraker and Libby Drotar discuss the closing of one of their favorite coffee shops and hangouts, Tongue's Coffee. The business is expected to close by the end of the month.

Photo by Tereasa Nims. Benny Morawa (left), Alex Sorenson, Chris Stonebraker and Libby Drotar discuss the closing of one of their favorite coffee shops and hangouts, Tongue’s Coffee. The business is expected to close by the end of the month.

By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Tongue’s Coffee will be no more by the end of the month because of a 60 percent rent increase that the owner said blindsided the business, while the landlords said he knew it was coming.

Timmy Tongue’s Facebook post Thursday morning incited a storm of upset customers, with some suggesting a protest against landlords Janette and Annette Crossman and Kathleen Gunther, who also own neighboring Total Health Foods.

Tongue’s Coffee, 2958 Biddle, opened more than four years ago and customers say it’s a welcoming environment and a gathering place for friends, with live music, art and coffee.

“I don’t want to see any negative reactions,” Tongue’s Coffee General Manager Adan Garcia said. “It’s nice to see that people are there for us.”
Garcia said he doesn’t want to see any retaliation against Total Health Foods.

“They are a small business, too,” Garcia said.

“I’m very upset,” said customer Chris Stonebraker of Wyandotte. “Tongue’s is very important to a lot of people. I don’t know what other business captures any kind of warmth that Tongue’s does.”

Libby Drotar, also of Wyandotte, said Tongue always is helping out in the community and is sad to see this happening. She said she thought the city’s business community was all about helping each other out.

“It’s sad to understand we’re going to have to let go of this place,” Stonebraker said.

Resident Benny Morawa deems the landlords’ actions, “uncouth.”

Tongue’s customer Alex Sorenson of Riverview said he hates seeing the coffee shop “pushed out.”

Janette Crossman said that while Tongue said he was blindsided by the rent increase, she said he’s known it was coming since July.

“I sat right across from him,” she said. “We were face-to-face, three inches apart when I told him the rent was going up.”

Crossman said if Tongue had a problem with the deal, he should have said something then. The landlords wouldn’t disclose the rent amount, but said it was fair and still less than what the going rate is for the area.

The owners said if they wanted the coffee shop gone, they could have made them leave when they bought the building in July.

Crossman said Tongue’s new rent on the month-to-month lease was due Jan. 1 and it hasn’t been paid.

“We wanted this to work out,” Annette Crossman said. “We are disappointed in the whole situation. It’s a shame it has to be this way.”

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at dstreporter@gmail.com.)

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