Sunday, January 13, 2008
Save Toscanini's, not the Coffee Cards
Yep, the rumors are true. I am moving to Los Angeles in a few short days. There has been a flurry of activity going in support of this move, including sifting through a decade of accumulated detritus. One of the items I was excited to find was a number of those Toscanini's Coffee Cards--you know the ones that with enough stamps and due diligence you can get a free coffee? Somehow, I can never hang on to them long enough to score that free coffee, so I gave up a long time ago. Well my plan was to do some more packing, and then reward myself with a free Batdorf and Bronson coffee. I had a vision of the music stopping and the crowds parting as I triumphantly marched up to the counter waving around my stamped coffee cards from circa 1999, while hearing someone say, "step aside, here comes a regular."
Well, much to my dismay I got a MySpace bulletin alerting me that there would be no free coffee since my beloved Tosci's is now closed and seized by the MA Department of Revenue for failing to pay meals taxes. MA Meals taxes are the 5% that they tack onto your bill and is supposed to be remitted to state on a regular basis. Sometimes when places don't have enough working capital it can be tempting to use that extra 5% to make the difference in cash flow. It's kind of Restaurant Biz 101 to know not to do that.
What's surprising is that Toscanini's had been in business for years, and is widely regarded as one of the best spots for ice cream and coffee around. The New York Times lauded it as one of the best ice creams in the country, and it was.
But there's hope for those of you who are still hanging onto your coffee cards. A group of Tosci's fans have mobilized to raise the money owed for back taxes. Like the Someday Cafe (which was once under the same ownership as Tosci's), this is another case of consumers banding together to try to save another independent coffee shop. So far they have raised $3,000 towards that end. Toscanini's is so loved in the community that they may make it.
For the record, I won't be donating any money to Toscanini's. No, naysayers, not because I'm moving to LA, and not because I don't love me some Tosci's. If you want to shell out some money, go ahead, but personally I don't believe it is the place of the consumer to be donating money to businesses. That's what equity investment is for. Admittedly it is a tough environment for small businesses, but all the more reason to have all your ducks in row when it comes to business matters. Aside from that, I'm the self- impoverished writer trying to score a free coffee, remember?
So for now, I guess I won't be holding onto these now defunct coffee cards. But I still have my China Pearl Dim Sum card if there are any takers.