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All Saints Café, the neighborhood's namesake, is one of the latest Tallahassee business casualties

The All Saints Café, with its metal roof style exterior and brightly colored side wall with a mural on it.
Patrick Sternad
/
WFSU Public Media
A group of students walks toward All Saints Café, a local favorite serving home-brewed coffee in the All Saints district of Tallahassee.

Another Tallahassee staple is set to close soon. All Saints Café, which shares its name with the neighborhood, recently announced it will close its doors permanently. Years of construction and blocked roads on Gaines Street have hurt the shop’s business, as have other nearby stores that sell similar products. All Saints, which has been in business for nearly 20 years, served as the inspiration for developers who tried to manufacture the coffee shop’s ingrained bohemian vibe—with mixed levels of success. WFSU News Director Lynn Hatter recently sat down with one of All Saints’ owners, WFSU Operations Engineer Evan Rossi.

Lynn Hatter: How did you first come to All Saints Café? And how did you come to partly own it?

Evan Rossi:: It started out as part-time employment. There were some financial issues regarding the former owner, and myself, and a few of my friends, who are also co-workers. [We] effectively did not get paid for a few years.

LH: For YEARS?!

Rossi: For a few years, it was an ongoing process where we drop a paycheck here, we drop the paycheck there, it would be pushed back five days here, it wouldn't materialize at all over here. And that would go on for about five, six years until we had realized that each one of us individually was owed several thousand dollars. And [for] a couple of us it was approaching nearly five figures. And the former owner approached us, more or less admitted defeat, and said that as sorry as he was, there was just no way that he'd be able to make us whole. So he offered us co-ownership of the business in lieu of back pay. And not really seeing many options, we took it.

LH: You went public with the news Wednesday, July 21, that you all will be shutting down.

Evan: Yes.

LH: What happened?

Rossi: The principal issue, obviously, the pandemic, that was a number one. The, frankly, debilitating level of development in the neighborhood over the years, would sideline us for weeks or months at a time. And for a business like ours, where you would sit down and enjoy your afternoon with a cup of coffee and your book or a laptop, or maybe you're studying, the noise of construction [is] not really conducive to relaxation or studying. And when one project ended, another project would begin.

We occupied an old failing building. Another big part of the problem. In the last six months, we've had two separate pretty catastrophic plumbing accidents, one involving our water main inside, we've had equipment failures, all of the normal things you would expect with a business. But it just also seemed to coincide with everything else. So yeah, it was it's a bad combination. It's no one thing that did us in.

LH: All Saints sort of had a vibe; it had a mood; it had a tone. And it was a tone that a lot of the development and developers around All Saints Café really tried to emulate.

Rossi: I think so. I would agree with that. I think what gave us that reputation was the fact that we weren't trying to force an attitude or an atmosphere on the place we just were ourselves and we allowed our employees to be themselves. And I think that appealed to a lot of people. “Bohemian” was another word that was thrown around. In fact, that ended up in some of the marketing language of the newer development of the neighborhood ‘in the style of All Saints Café’ (laughs). But you've just forced an attitude on it. And that's…that's not genuine and people can, I think, identify that as disingenuous.

LH: What do you think will be the legacy of All Saints [Café]?

Rossi: We weren't trying to be anything other than a place to get a particularly good cup of coffee and relax. That's all we were ever trying to do. We never tried to sell you an experience. Just a good cup of coffee.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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