Many of you may have already read stories or heard information that the Heartland Café is closing. The following is a public message from our owner, Tom Rosenfeld, to our community. We want to clear up any inaccuracy that may be circulating.
I am writing to share with you my personal views behind the news you might have heard about Heartland’s demise. I share my confusion over rumors with Mark Twain who said, “I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead.” He then added his famous quote that his death was an exaggeration.
Sadly, in a world that seems dominated by tweets and opinions and less influenced by facts and truth, I find myself having to explain what we are doing at Heartland Café.
I share your love of this place, its history, and its meaning. There are so few places even comparable to Heartland in the world. Like myself, you instantly feel comfortable when entering Heartland, you are amongst friends and like-minded companions. You appreciate that the food is made from scratch and not mass produced. The people are down-to-earth and the politics are progressive and reasoned. No one is dressed to impress and “other” is accepted as “normal”.
When I bought Heartland more than 6 years ago I wanted to preserve what felt good and improve what needed help. And we did that tirelessly without concern about the financial cost or toll on me, my family, or the toll on our management team. We have tried so many things to modernize Heartland while ensuring we stayed true to our roots. Some things worked but many did not.
About a year ago we realized there was a deep flaw to our model that we just couldn’t solve. The reality is that the charm of our old building is also very hard on our restaurant. We are spread out all over the building. Our General Manager used to walk as many as 6 miles in a shift. It’s hard for us to lightly staff during slow periods and we need a large staff to cover the building when we are busy. In short, we can’t find a sustainable model to operate in this building. There is also never-ending maintenance and repair costs. It’s just not working as hard as we try to make it work. We created a plan designed to ensure that Heartland can continue to operate into the future. The plan is to sell the building, with one of two expected outcomes:
- A developer would buy the building with the intent of tearing down the building and building apartment units. To comply with zoning, they would need to have a commercial tenant on the first floor. Heartland Café would be that tenant.
- Someone like me 6 years ago, will decide that they are up to the challenge and responsibility to own and operate the historic Heartland Café and the building it lives in. That person would be fully vetted, like I was by Michael and Katy, to ensure that they are ready to live up to the expectations of owning such an important part of people’s lives and memories.
Once we listed the building the rumors started swirling that Heartland is closing. That is exactly opposite of what we are setting out to do. I am trying to ensure that Heartland continues. That will be with or without me depending on the buyer and what represents the best value overall. Value, in my context, is not just dollars. Value includes things like impact on employees and community benefit, and you are part of the community. The financial part of this for me is a hurdle that needs to be cleared, and not the goal. The goal is to have Heartland continue in a more functional model.
I appreciate your role as part of our community and I’m open to ideas and input. We all want the same thing… Yes, world peace! But we also want the Heartland Café and everything it stands for, to continue into the future for all of our benefit.