Despite rising numbers of members, increased attendance at programs and more traffic in its coffee shop, the nonprofit Woody Creek Community Center (WC3) is scaling back its cafe and temporarily closing this off-season.
The center has lost between $50,000 and $60,000 annually over the last few years, its board president Rob Pew said on Friday.
To get out of the red, Pew said, the board is cutting the WC3’s small staff and dropping most of the food from its menu.
“The bad news — the café continues to be a financial drain on the center,” Pew wrote to WC3 supporters in a recent letter. “We just have not found a model that works within our mission of providing a wonderful gathering place for all in our community.”
Keeping food affordable with the WC3’s relatively low level of traffic has been troublesome for the nonprofit.
“We’ve struggled over the years to make the cafe pay for itself,” Pew added.
The WC3 board hasn’t set closure dates, but plans to shutter the building in early November and reopen soon after Thanksgiving.
They’re not planning to cut down public programs or the medical services offered there.
Opened in late 2007, the WC3 is run as a nonprofit by a board of directors. The space adjacent to the Woody Creek Tavern was long occupied by the Woody Creek Store, which closed in 2006. Locals organized to re-open it as a nonprofit community center and did so with a $400,000 renovation.
The organization generates revenue through memberships, fundraising, grants and sales from the community center.
Food offerings have expanded since the center opened in 2007, when the only hot option was a “rumble strip” sandwich, named for the traffic calming feature outside.
“It’s a great community resource,” Pew said. “We’re just trying to do the right thing by the community.”
Pew said the food offerings have lost money, and they’re now looking to focus on espressos, cappuccinos and simple baked goods.
“We just want to make it a great coffee shop,” he said.
As they wind down the kitchen and try to empty the freezer this month, expect some unique concoctions and specials in the cafe.
Pew said they’re going to eliminate their cook position and scale back to one person running the register and handling food, down from the four to five staffers they’ve typically carried.
“That’s the key element, to reduce people on the payroll,” Pew said.
During the closure, they’re aiming to remodel the basement into a commercial kitchen, which they could then rent to a caterer. Their aim is to use that rent to cover overhead costs. The center itself pays no rent on its lease from building owners George and Patti Stranahan.
The facility has become a central morning-time community gathering place for Woody Creekers and commuters, who share coffee and newspapers, buy cheap used books and use free Internet there. Over the last year, the WC3 has expanded its public programming to include concerts, lectures, book-signings and rotating art exhibitions.
The “Neighborhood Clinic” at the center also offers free doctor’s hours every two weeks, bringing health care access to the remote hamlet. It won’t be affected by the changes at WC3.
“The Neighborhood Clinic is strong and growing and I don’t think there’s any threat to that in the transition,” said Woody Creeker and physical therapist Peg O’Brien, who volunteers at the clinic. “It’s a wonderful program.”