Paddy Iyer won’t be the one to lock the doors to his coffee shop Saturday night, the day of the local icon’s closing celebration.
“I just don’t think I can get it into me,” said Iyer, the owner of Paddy's Coffee House. “It’s been something that’s part of the fabric of my life for the past 10 years. I wake up in the morning and I open the doors. If I’m working the night shift, I close the doors.”
“After Saturday night, there won’t be any more opening and closing.”
Today is technically the last day of business for Paddy's Coffee House at its location on 3900 Smith St. where it has been a community pillar for the past 10 years. The coffee shop will go on an indefinite hiatus as Iyer plans a relocation somewhere in the Tri-Cities.
On Saturday, the community is invited to say goodbye — for now — for a daylong potluck celebration from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Guests are encouraged to bring their own food and beverage items, as well as donation items for the Tree of Hope, a holiday donation drive benefiting Centro de Servicios.
“It’s a time for the neighborhood to come share their stories and meet other people from the neighborhood,” Iyer said.
The daylong event will feature art displays and sales from local artists that the coffee shop has supported over the years. Weather permitting, there may even be live music on the back lawn, Iyer said.
“It’s just a big ol’ party,” he added. “Very rarely do businesses have grand closings. We’re a little eccentric.”
Iyer stressed that the business is not closing for good and is scouting locations with hopes to open in the spring, preferably in Union City.
“We’d like to be in Union City because the city has been extremely helpful to us when we started this business, when were growing and when we grew. Now they are looking at our decision to relocate, and they have been even more helpful,” Iyer said.
Iyer also stressed that though he’s struggled financially to stay afloat, there are no disputes between him and the landlord of the building.
“We just felt we outgrew this place. We needed a lot of structural changes to have done which would have been expensive to do in the existing spot,” Iyer explained.
For its reincarnation, Iyer is partnering with a baker and envisions not just a coffee shop but a bistro offering an expanded food and pastry menu, along with wine and beer. It won’t be fine dining, but it will be a step up from a typical coffee shop, Iyer said.
But while the change could be more lucrative, the coffee shop’s hiatus and uncertainty of its relocation has left many concerned — not about where they’ll go for a cup of coffee, but where they’ll go to find culture and community. The business has served as a true community venue, hosting countless music concerts, comedy nights, film screenings, poetry readings, meetings, forums and other events for the community.
Across a wall of the shop is a sheet of butcher paper with more than 100 notes left from community members. Patrons from over the years have left heartfelt messages with memories and well wishes for Iyer and his endeavors.
“Many dream of making a difference…Paddy, you made that dream a reality. Thank you for years of kindness, compassion, hospitality, charm and service,” read one of the many unsigned notes.
On Thursday afternoon, Frank Gonzalez stopped by for a cup of coffee as he’s done routinely since Paddy’s opened up 10 years ago. Like many, he’s saddened that Paddy’s, which was a second home to some, will no longer be on the corner of Smith and Watkins streets.
“It’s always been a grounding spot. It’s a place you can come to anytime and run into somebody you want to run into,” Gonzales, a 39-year-old writer, said. “Change is a given … but it’s not going to have the same memories as this place does.”
Those memories are what keep Iyer pushing forward with his business, and what he’s afraid to close the doors on on Saturday night.
“It’s not going to be as much a loss for the neighborhood in as much as a personal loss for us because we don’t know if we’ll be seeing the same people again, if we’ll be working with the same people who have made a big difference the last 10 years,” Iyer said.
As he sat in his coffee shop just before closing time Thursday night, Iyer, who recently turned 50, reflected on the many memories at his shop, from watching children grow to helping careers flourish.
“That’s what we’re going to miss the most — the growth of the community,” Iyer said. “I’ll miss giving people a chance to realize and grow into what they want to be, giving the encouragement and the support to musicians and artists and students who didn’t realize they had the potential to succeed.”
What are your favorite memories at Paddy's? Share them in the comments section below.