The property owner of the effect molecule won’t renew the lease, and now the community is rallying around it
In late September, Mark Landman and his wife, Megyn Rodgers, received an unwelcome surprise: The owner’s attorney put a notice on the café door, molecule effect, at 525 Santa Fe Drive, stating that the lease will not be renewed. “Over the years, we thought we had a really good relationship with him. Even in August during the first Friday, we all just sat together and had a glass of wine on our patio,” Landmann says.
When the pandemic hit, the property’s owner, Horace McCowan, of Horace Real Estate, “was really good for us,” Landmann notes. “He made some concessions that we were very grateful for, and very recently, we were able to repay.” The Molecule Effect, located in a second location in the Wash Park neighborhood, has agreed a month-to-month lease in Santa Fe, so the company now has until October 31 to vacate where it has been for seven years. In order to have enough time to close properly, Landman and Rodgers plan to close the doors on October 15.
But some around are hoping to be able to use their collective power to get behind the company. When longtime customer Beth Sebian heard about the shutdown, she decided to act. “I spent my lunch break at the printing press, producing flyers to promote a community meeting at the café on October 8 at 6:30 p.m. ‘Really love the café;’” says Sebian; I go to him a few times a week,” she explained. “But over the past few years, I’ve also noticed how Mark and Megyn are running their business.”
“Our job was to build a community,” Landman says. “We think our name says it all: The effect of the molecule is all about creating chemistry between people. Our mission was to provide an area where people could meet, discuss, have fun and fall in love. And all of the above happened.”
In addition to providing a space for the community to gather, Molecule Effect focuses on supporting local creators, displaying artists’ work on the walls and hosting live music from local artists and an open air comedy night.
“They’re trying to run a company that serves the community,” Sebian continues. “I became more aware of that during COVID, when I saw the efforts they put in to stay open and support their employees.” Now Sebian wants to get that energy back. “I want to support a project that supports my region.”
She hopes this meeting will be the first step in discovering how to raise the collective voice of the community against what she considers an unfair move by McCwan. “I think the landlords have a lot of power, and because of that, they have a lot of responsibility to society for which they have to be responsible,” Sebian explains. “I think local things matter. I think relationships and communities matter. This café is not the only thing in the world that matters right now, but the power of taking ownership of our community and what we allow to happen, feels like a practice that interests me, and one that will benefit us then as well.”
Its purpose of the meeting is to answer two questions: Does this matter to us? And what are we going to do about it? She hopes the group can “raise their voice and not let this happen in silence.”
“Megyn and I are by our side because of the generosity,” Landmann says of the outpouring of support the molecule’s effect has seen since news of the impending shutdown broke. But he also remains upset and confused by the landlord’s complete lack of direct communication about his plans to end the company’s lease. “The ironic part about this is that our landlord is an SBA lender to Key Bank, and I kind of feel like in the day he’s lending an SBA to help small businesses, and at night he’s a landlord and he’s going to destroy the small business and do whatever is best for him financially.” .
Sibyan echoes this sentiment. “Based on my understanding of the situation, the owner has just acted in a completely unacceptable manner, that is kind of greedy and without any accountability to the community or his business relationships.”
But even as Landman, Rodgers, Sibyan and others struggle to make their voices heard, the company is already planning for a future beyond its current position in the art district. “We think we’re now a permanent part of the community,” Landmann says. “With this unfortunate news, we immediately began to see if there were other options in the neighborhood.”
But construction will take some time, so in the meantime, Landman and Rodgers will continue to support local artists and make space for community gatherings at the Molecule Effect’s Wash Park site, which Opened in March 2020 At 300 South Logan Street.
The effect of the molecule is not the only business that is closed due to the problems of the owner: Factotum Brewhouse will close its doors on October 9 After the operators and the owner of the building They couldn’t come up with a rental rate That both sides thought it fair.
While many restaurants, bars, breweries, and coffee shops are finally starting to see customers return in pre-pandemic numbers, these examples prove that other challenges still loom.