Friday, July 06, 2007

The Realities of Small Business

Eminger Berries files for bankruptcy

With the abrupt closing and departure of Susan Eminger, of Eminger Berries fame, there has been no shortage of water cooler speculation about what happened and her whereabouts.

This morning’s Lewiston Sun Journal ran what appeared to be a wire story indicating that Eminger Berries has filed for bankruptcy. The two-year-old business, which shut down its operations suddenly, last month, shows documents filed on June 20th, seeking Chapter 7 protection from creditors.

According to the news story, the company shows assets of $124,974 and liabilities of $229,537, with sizeable unpaid bills to FedEx and UPS.

The business, which opened in 2005 with Eminger filling orders from her home when she began, was featured on the Food Network, specifically Paula Deen’s show, the culinary equivalent of having a book featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Eminger has apparently relocated to Texas, with her husband and two small children.

Starting a business is never easy, even with a delicious product and some national exposure. Having met Ms. Eminger, who emanated confidence and capability, I hope she lands on her feet and finds something new to focus her food-related talents on.

Death of a Coffee Shop

Barnie’s Café, a wonderful coffee bar, featuring light breakfast and some yummy sandwiches and other summer fare, is closing its doors on Monday.

Located in the historic Bates Mill, in Lewiston, Barnie’s was one of several new businesses that had located to the renovated Mill No. 6 and featured dozens of coffees, from espresso, to latte and cappuccino. The complex, which is home to one of the city’s major employers, TD Banknorth, as well as partial operations for Androscoggin Bank, medical offices and two restaurants, seemed like the perfect locale for the upscale coffee shop, feauturing Wi-Fi for business clients.

Having utilized Barnie’s for several client meetings and a Saturday rendez-vous with a potential RiverVision Press book project suitor, I enjoyed the café’s atmosphere and coffee, not to mention that it emanated a much hipper vibe than any other coffee shop in a town. While Barnie’s was a franchise of the Florida-based Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company, it had local ownership and wasn’t just another one of multiple chain store offerings in Lewiston/Auburn, catering to the caffeine habit.

While local economic development people insist that there isn’t a trend developing, these two closings, coupled with the recent closure of Uncle Troy’s a locally-owned family BBQ restaurant across the river, aren’t positive signals to those of us that prefer variety and something other than the big-box, or pre-packaged gastronomic experience.

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