Saturday was the swan song for Treet’s Bakery Café, which opened in late February, 2007, in the Wilcox Block at 133 E. Market St.
This news comes as a disappointment, but perhaps we should begin its consideration by injecting a few drams of realism into the discussion. The average life span of restaurants is less than five years, and even more startling, roughly 90% of independent operators go out of business before their third birthday, so taken in this context, the demise of Treet’s can hardly be regarded as exceptional.
Of course, knowing the statistics does little to assuage our sadness and regret that Teresa’s efforts fell short. She worked awfully hard, and had a number of friends who worked hard helping her, and still it wasn’t enough to survive. Unfortunately, all the enthusiasm and elbow grease in the world can do no more than modify the unfavorable odds for any restaurant start-up. They cannot make the inexorable laws of business life magically irrelevant, and when it comes to restaurants, the facts of life are remarkably harsh, something that may not always be evident to the customer.
Competition is vicious and the marketplace is infuriatingly volatile. One must shape and configure a physical space, work out all the details pertaining to infrastructure, create an excellent product, price it correctly, find a competent team to help sell the product, manage that team properly, and at the end of the day, still reckon with a paper-thin margin … and all that comes before the week’s proceeds go to pay for the suddenly malfunctioning oven, without which the doors cannot be opened tomorrow.
Obviously, a multi-faceted skill set is necessary, improvisational abilities are paramount, and the testing process is merciless. Fail at any one component, and the whole edifice wobbles. Fail at two, and collapse is likely. Sometimes every single thing about it functions perfectly … and the business still doesn’t succeed owing to conditions entirely outside the operator’s control.
We’ve been here before. I wrote the following words after Bistro New Albany closed last October:
It’s remarkably easy for people who can do no better than “start up” the occasional rag picker’s business or do contracting work without permits to understand how difficult a genuine paradigm shift is to achieve. All of downtown New Albany currently is engaged in that paradigm shift, and it’s a work in progress that unfortunately will have its ups and downs. Bistro New Albany’s demise is a downer, but within it are seeds of positive developments.
Likewise, I lament the passing of Treet’s, but I view its demise in the same vein as that of BNA’s. Life itself proceeds on a multi-dimensional chessboard, and simplicities are seldom what they seem. An opportunity now exists. Someone’s loss is another’s gain.
And so on.
The very first “microbrewery” of the contemporary era was New Albion in California, and it did not survive the decade of the 1970’s, but rising from its wreckage was Mendocino Brewing Company, which has persevered in one or another incarnation ever since.
My company started brewing its own beer in its 15th year of business overall, and only after we acquired the brewing equipment at a considerable discount from the defunct Tucker/Oldenberg operation. Now, more than five years later, we’re looking to repeat the Darwinian process. For a variety of reasons, the coming year stands to be a difficult one for smaller brewing companies in America. That’s bad, and some of them will fold as a result. Their brewhouses will come up for sale, helping to transform what has been a premium-priced seller’s market into one more favorable for buyers — buyers like NABC, which is looking for a larger kit in order to expand.
Let’s hope for a similar break at 133 E. Market.
After the preceding was written, this arrived from Teresa via e-mail:
Treet’s will close its doors on Saturday, January 19,2008. We would like to thank our manyloyal customers for their support, assistance, encouragement and contributions;
the bus tubs,
the newspapers and magazines,
the napkins folding,
the coffee making,
the light hanging,
the scrubbing and sweeping,
the plants and flowers,
the errand running
etc, etc, etc.
Never has a business been so blessed with friends andsupporters. We regret that we can no longer be a part of the community and wish all of Downtown New Albany’s residents and businesses and all of our customers and friends the best of luck and a happy and prosperous future.
Teresa, Terri, Annie, Stephen, Samantha, Claire,Morgan and Kaila.