If you live in Bushwick, have friends who live in Bushwick or have heard of Bushwick, you most likely know of Little Skips. For 10 years, the neighborhood cafe has been serving coffee and delicious sandwiches to the (creative) community. Now, due to a doubling of her rent, owner Linda Thach is forced to close the cafe’s doors by the end of August.
“I’ve exhausted my options,” said Thach in a phone interview. “ I have not been able to find a solution that I feel comfortable with.”
She’s considered making it work with the extra costs, but that would mean that she’d have to hustle way harder. It took her years to find the right business structure for Little Skips and she doesn’t want to do that again.
“Having my other locations as well, I already feel like I’m being spread thin. So I wouldn’t be able to give it the love it needs. I’m not okay with that,” said Thach.
For the past couple of years, she’s also looked into collaborating with a partner who could double as bar manager, finding a buyer who could keep the space as it is, and negotiating the rent with her landlord—all without success. One plan that people keep suggesting, is turning the cafe into a bar. Selling alcohol and staying open late would be a lucrative addition to the cafe.
“I don’t want to get people drunk,” she said. “I want people to get buzzed on creativity and thinking. I built it as a community space where people can have coffee and tea. If I start a bar, that would go away.”
Thach’s biggest regret is that she can’t keep the place open for her staff of 20 and customers—many of whom have been with her for years.
“We’ve been a part of so many people’s lives and stories,” she said. People have written books sipping Little Skip’s coffee, started bands during open mic nights and fallen in love waiting in line for a sandwich.
The answer to the question “would you open up a new Little Skips in a different location” is simple to Linda: it’s impossible. She has seen too many examples of businesses trying to replicate their successful recipe in a new location and fail. You simply can’t replicate a space’s vibe, which is what often makes it special.
“Little Skips is very unique,” said Thach. “There is this creative energy in the walls. When I first walked in over 10 years ago, something, this energy, hit me like a flash of light. That’s the thing, I can’t move it anywhere. Whatever happens to Little Skips has to happen in the space itself.”
It hasn’t hit Thach yet that she’ll have to close shop in six weeks (August 26). She is too busy running things during this transitional period as smoothly as possible.
Little Skips was the first place she opened and holds a special place in her heart. “It makes me sad. This feels like my first child is going off to college, or moves across the country,” she said. “I feel like the heart of Little Skips is still here, because I’m still around. But it really is not the same in my other spaces. I’m definitely losing a very special child.”
“We do art shows, promote local artists, host open mics, curated music on weekends,” she said. “That’s the saddest part for me. That all of that old-school Brooklyn vibe—the reason that people come to New York: to make it and to play cafes like mine—we don’t have a lot like it anymore.”
Even though she’s sad about the situation, she’s not resentful. Local businesses being replaced by global ones is part of New York City. The landlords will come out on top, because small business owners don’t have the time and money to fight them. In Bushwick, the artist community is getting priced out and replaced by young, wealthy people. They might prefer a Starbucks over a chill cafe that supports local artists.
As for now, Thach hopes for a little miracle, a way to keep the cafe open in its current form, as a community space. If that miracle won’t come, she will focus on restructuring her other businesses to get them green certified and go zero-waste.
Cover image courtesy of Little Skips.
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