After a battle with Time Warner and then a decline in business, Central Cafe in downtown St. Cloud announced that they will be closing their store at the end of March. Owners Odessa and Alan Scherr have been trying to sell their coffee shop since the spring of 2018, but since they have not had any takers, they decided closing is the best thing to do for themselves.
“I’ve had lots of sleepless nights trying to come up with this decision,” Odessa Scherr said. “It will be kind of nice just having a home life. Family time and not having to be tied down to a business.”
The problems for this cafe, which was originally known as “Central Perk,” started in March 2018 when Odessa Scherr received a cease and desist letter from Time Warner stating that they could no longer use that name for their business.
This was part of a plan by Time Warner to create a chain of coffee shops with the Central Perk name, and they didn’t want to have any franchised businesses with the same title,so the Scherrs decided it wasn’t worth it to fight the order.
“[It’s] so sad that the big corporations have to pick on the little shops,” Odessa Scherr said. “It would have cost us more money than what it was worth to try and fight Time Warner just because the copyright and that type of stuff, so we were like ‘OK, let’s just change the name.”
The original name for the Scherrs’ coffee shop was coined from the popular 1990s TV sitcom, Friends, which featured a coffee shop that the main characters would frequent also called Central Perk.
That was only the beginning of the problems for Odessa and Alan, because when Herberger’s from down the road closed their doors for good in August 2018, suddenly downtown St. Cloud turned into a ghost town.
“After it closed, we started noticing downtown, especially in the afternoons it really started to slow down, even in the summertime which normally we have people walking everywhere downtown,” Alan Scherr said.
The Scherr’s admitted that when Herberger’s closed, they weren’t expecting it to impact their numbers as much as it did since they are four blocks away from it. Alan Scherr also said that the weather can play a role in their slow turnout in both the summer and winter months.
“The weather is a huge factor, especially with downtown, like today now it’s snowing, there’s nobody downtown, there’s nobody [even] walking. During the summer if it rains, we’re either busy or we’re dead, there’s no in between,” he said.
By rebranding the name of their shop from Central Perk to Central Cafe, that worked against the married couple’s shop since it costed money to change the name and signage, as well as trying to let the public know they were still the same business. It’s a day and age where it’s the mom and pop stores versus the large conglomerates, and they just can’t compete with them. Nevertheless, the Scherrs said that the large stores don’t make the same personal connections that the five and dimes shops do.
“Like Caribou, it’s like you’re more a number and here we treat you like you’re family, kind of like from Cheers, ‘everyone knows your name,’ we have a couple people that say ‘everyone knows your name,’” Odessa Scherr said.
Alan Scherr said closing on March 31 will be hard for him because he has made so many special connections over the years at the cafe and wouldn’t trade away those memories for anything else.
“It’s really hard, especially with all the people that I’ve gotten to know over the years, we’ve watched one person… she was pregnant when we first opened and we watched the little kid grow up, [and] the little one is now going to go to kindergarten in the fall,” Alan Scherr said.
After working 80 hour weeks for such little returns and less time with the family, it’s safe to say that Alan and Odessa are ready to move on.
“We don’t know what the future will bring, but we’re just hoping that it will open up some doors,” Odessa Scherr said.