Photo by Luke Nankivell, photo editor
Just before the start of the new semester, the Drake neighborhood lost a beloved coffee shop, study space and meeting place.
But thanks to four dedicated regulars, the locally owned Mars Café will reopen Saturday.
“If you would have asked me two months ago if I would be buying a coffee shop, that would not have even been on my radar,” said Justin Schoen, one of the café’s four new owners.
Mark Movic, Angela Johnson and Amedeo Rossi join Schoen as the new owners of Mars Café, the six-year-old Dogtown coffee shop that closed in mid-August.
Despite a few enhancements to the menu, the selection of Wisconsin-based Kickapoo Coffee as the café’s new coffee roaster and a fresh coat of paint, Schoen says the café will remain relatively unchanged.
“Mars Café will continue to be Mars Café, the same place people loved to come in,” Shoen said.
For the most part, the same familiar faces also will be present behind the counter as the new owners hired back many of the same staff members, including long-time barista Daniel Bosman.
“I got to know all four of the new owners through Mars, and over the course of six years of serving them coffee, we all became really close,” said Bosman, who has worked at Mars Café for just over six years.
“So when Mars decided to close, I think everybody was bummed that we wouldn’t be able to see each other each day and talk over a cup of coffee.”
On July 29, when local business owner Larry James announced the business’s closing on the Mars Café Facebook page, the social media response was overwhelming. It was the dedication of the café’s regulars that drove Schoen to consider taking on the Mars Café brand.
“People are really passionate about this brand and that’s what really drew me to it,” Schoen said. “To have that (passion) is something that’s pretty unique, and I see that as a huge opportunity for us.”
At first Schoen, a Mars Café regular himself, said he was “disappointed like many others that it had closed,” but also felt a need to look at the situation as a business opportunity.
In the initial stages, Schoen notes that Bosman was critical in communicating with each of the new business partners.
“I met with all four of the owners separately and started going over details of the ins and outs of the café,” Bosman said. “All of this actually started before we closed. It was just a lengthy process in putting all the pieces together.”
Over the past few weeks, Schoen used the café’s various social media accounts to tease its reopening, with tweets like “Roving the planet” and Facebook postings reading “testing…1, 2, 3.”
Then on Sept. 4 when a photo of the storefront with the caption, “We are back. 9/15/2012” hit Facebook, it received close to 400 likes and 100 shares.
“All of us were just blown away by the amount of likes and shares and positive comments that came from that,” Schoen said regarding the Sept. 4 posting.
Though Schoen and his partners plan on keeping many of the café’s features the same, he also hopes to work more closely with Drake University to foster a “creative community where anyone can come and interact.”
Bosman agreed that the café offers students a space away from campus not only to study but also to connect with one another.
“Mars Café has been extremely important to both the Drake Community and the students at Drake University,” Bosman said. “Sometimes I felt like we were the common place that helped connected the two.”
The café also will continue to be a venue for local musicians to meet, perform and grow their fan base. Local groups like Parlours and Christopher the Conquered got their start at the original Mars Café and Schoen says the new owners hope to continue fostering the same sort of creative environment.
An official reopening celebration is still being planned and will likely be held in the coming weeks.