With fewer downtown RR commuters, depot coffee shop seeks rent cut
Updated 7:00 am, Friday, May 4, 2012
Owners of the coffee shop at Fairfield's downtown train station hope a rent reduction may be brewing.
A tight economy and the opening of the town's third train station last year are proving to be a drain on the shop's business, according to the owners.
Barbara Stern, co-owner of Chat-N-Chew, has asked the Parking Authority, which manages the property, if the lease can be renegotiated for the space the business rents on the New York-bound side of the depot. The spot was once occupied by a Dunkin' Donuts outlet.
"It's hard for us, too," Stern told the authority recently after the panel had concluded a public hearing on the need to increase the cost of annual parking permits at the rail station. "There's a smaller number of commuters," she said, referring to those who now use the new Fairfield Metro station.
Stern said the coffee shop does not open every weekend, though her husband and co-owner, Brett, said they've experimented with opening for weekend baseball games and during the holiday shopping season.
"There's been a 20 to 25 percent drop in revenue," Brett Stern said, "and no way to recover it."
The rent on the space is $2,000 a month and the lease also calls for an additional payment to the Parking Authority for improvements made to the space.
Chairwoman Mary Kay Frost said the authority recently had an appraisal done to determine the rental price for the taxi cab stand on the New Haven-bound side of the station, and they agreed they should have a similar appraisal done for the coffee shop.
Parking Authority member Ronald Pine calculated that since signing the lease in 2005, the Sterns have paid about $63,000 toward the improvements. The figure to be repaid is $90,000.
"Maybe we could reduce that," Pine said. "We could adjust that because that adds on to their rent."
The Sterns said Chat-N-Chew relies on rail passengers and not general traffic off the street, and the number of daily commuters has dropped since Fairfield Metro opened at the end of last year.
"Find a number you can work with and we'll get our appraisal," Parking Authority member Trudi Durrell told the Sterns. The request will be discussed again when the authority meets at 7:30 p.m. May 24 in Sullivan-Independence Hall.
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