Financial woes don’t stop cafe

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Since purchasing the Artist’s Cup last November, Carol Knoblow and her fiancé Chris Burchard have spent countless hours revamping the cafe in order to give it a more authentic coffeehouse vibe.

However, their hard work has yet to pay off financially.

“There’s so much that can be done with this place and we want to do it, but we are totally struggling financially,” Knoblow said. “We are literally hoping to make it. I don’t have an issue saying it’s going to be difficult.”

An Allegheny alumna, Knoblow had spent most of her professional life as a defense attorney in Los Angeles. After moving to Meadville to be with Burchard, she was less than thrilled at te prospect of having to retake the bar examination in order to practice law in Pennsylvania.

While readjusting to life in Meadville, she began spending time at the Artist’s Cup Cafe and discovered it was for sale. Deciding that the bar exam could wait, she bought the coffeehouse with high hopes. Despite the cafe’s current financial woes, Knoblow continues to plan to improve what the cafe has to offer.

“What we want to be is a very authentic coffeehouse, where you can go in and you can get a cappuccino that’s not the Starbucks thing,” said Knoblow. “It’s going to be more what you would get if you went to Italy and sat down there at a cafe.”

Reed Dunkle, ’12, who has worked at the Artist’s Cup since before Knoblow and Burchard took over, has noticed a major change in the way that the cafe serves coffee.

“The previous owner liked good coffee, but I don’t think the preparation was as important to her. I think Carol is bringing a bit more of a high society approach. Not in a pretentious way, but in an authentic way,” said Dunkle. “If you can introduce customers to this art in the right way, who can argue with that?”

Fellow employee Zachary Fradeneck, ’11, explained that making coffee “authentically” entails completely overhauling the preparation of the beverage.

“The way coffee is served here, the ratios of the ingredients is totally different from the authentic way of doing it. That means changing all of the sizes and prices, so that’s ambitious.”
Knoblow also hopes to develop the cafe’s artistic offerings, which already feature open mic nights and an in-house art gallery.

Located in the basement of the building, which used to be the Crawford County Bank, is a huge antique marble bank vault, which Knoblow plans to renovate and turn into an extension of the cafe’s art gallery.

Knoblow also has plans to start an independent newspaper separate from The Meadville Tribune and pull in more jazz and R & B musicians to play in the cafe.

“There’s a lot of musical talent, artistic talent, and creative writers here in Meadville. The Artist’s Cup is a really nice establishment for finding that type of talent.”

Fradeneck added that even though the Artist’s Cup has been a institution of Meadville for so long that locals had grown to appreciate for its consistency, customers are often aware and accommodating of the changes taking place.

What the clientele may not be so aware of is that the owners of the cafe are still struggling to break even on the financial side of things.

“[Knoblow and Burchard] never owned a coffee shop before, so it’s definitely a learning experience for all of us,” said Fradeneck, who began working at the Artist’s Cup shortly after the new owners took over.

Even though the business has its financial troubles, Knoblow remains optimistic about the future of the coffeehouse and cites the employees as factor.

“I’m a lawyer and my fiancé is an accountant. We aren’t in it for the money,” she said. “We’ve got this core group now and they’re so dedicated. The people who are here have an artistic vision. If we are going to survive it’s going to be because of the group we have.”