This afternoon, a beloved local coffee shop and meeting place (Mars Cafe) announced on Facebook that they’re shutting their doors on August 18.
To put this in context, Mars was a transformative force for the city of Des Moines. It championed – and became the heartbeat of – our creative and entrepreneurial classes. It was a triple shot of weird at the exact moment Des Moines needed to be roused from its sleepy complacency.
But my post isn’t going to be a flowery remembrance of Mars Cafe. My post is about letting things end.
After the announcement on Facebook, I watched the comments roll in. Emotions ranged from shock to grief to confusion.
“I feel like a part of me just died.”
The owner (Larry James Jr.) posted this reasoning for the closing:
…running a cafe is a full-time job. Apart from Mars, I’m an attorney with a growing practice and a wonderful young family. My career and kids require more time now, and so it is time to close the cafe.
Some commenters were asking why Larry couldn’t just sell the shop and let the brand live on. This is a natural response. So is having a heavy heart. Mars Cafe has given so much to the community over the years, and the community rightly feels a sense of ownership over the place. It can’t just go away. It’s ours.
Yes, Larry could easily sell the place and walk away. It would still be called Mars Cafe, but things would be slightly different. The DNA would slowly change over time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I suspect it played into the decision to not hand it off to someone else.
I believe there’s beauty in a good ending, and I respect individuals who recognize when it’s time to walk off the stage. Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, ended the comic strip at the peak of its popularity. Readers, fans and publishers were dismayed, but it was the right move. (Just look at how horrible Garfield is today.)
Larry built Mars Cafe the way he wanted. He deserves to turn off the lights in his own way, at a time and style of his choosing.