NORTH FORK – Slim’s Koffee Shak, the welcoming little sanctuary in the heart of downtown North Fork, has closed its doors. Whether this is a temporary or a permanent closure has yet to be determined.
Owner Scott Marsh says he is still weighing all his options, and there is still a chance that after a few months of regrouping, the popular mountain bistro will be back.
“This is not a case of lack of community support or mismanagement,” Scott says. “The fires and the government shutdown hit everyone hard.”
With tourism down all across the area this past summer, the revenue that generally carries the Shak through the slow winter months just wasn’t there this year, he says.
“For about 12 hours a day throughout the summer, the road past the shop is usually lined with cars, RV’s and campers,” he says. “People are headed for the lakes and the campgrounds. That didn’t happen this year. Those areas were closed, or people heard there was too much smoke so they just didn’t come.”
When Scott opened the Shak in March of 2011, he says he never expected to earn much of a living off the place, and he never intended to serve much food.
“I was more concerned with the community service aspect of it,” says Scott. “I wanted to create a welcoming environment where people could get together and enjoy a good cup of coffee or tea.”
The shop has evolved over the past few years to include sandwiches and salads, bagels and croissants, sweets and lemonade, as the fare has been expanded to accommodate what the patrons said they would like to see on the menu. Scott even prepared a daily homemade soup during the winter months, all made with fresh local ingredients.
More importantly to Scott, the Shak has also become a place to sit and relax, and visit with friends and neighbors when people come to the downtown area for other errands. They can enjoy a brief repast while their kids attend a class at the Dance Studio, or sip a cup of coffee while Fido is tended to at Best Friends Pet Grooming next door. Patrons would often play a game of cards, surf the Internet on the free WiFi, or gather for brainstorming sessions with business colleagues.
The Shak has played host to Friday Night Street Parties, Sunday Brunches complete with local musicians and fabulous food, local author book signings, the Sierra Art Trails, a Toys for Tots drop-off location and many more community-based activities.
But with the effects of the lack of tourism this past summer, there are financial realities that can’t be ignored. The transformation of the shop to better serve the needs of the community requires upgrades that Scott is not financially prepared to meet after last summer’s dearth of tourists and the accompanying revenue.
“I could stand here behind this counter for the next few months, and continue to lose money and make the situation worse,” he says. “Or I can close the doors and reevaluate things.”
In a Dec. 9 post on Facebook, Scott told fans of the Koffee Shak, “I’m going to reorganize and do everything I can over the next few months to reopen. I promise. I don’t want the community to think of us as a charity, or that a gimmick will make this work. It is the business of exchanging money for goods and services while supporting the community at the same time. It’s my job to figure out how to make it work. I need this business to stand on its own two feet.”
So while Scott explores his options, whether through reorganizing or finding an investor or two, downtown is just not the same. Loyal patrons have grown used to availing themselves of the opportunity to “set a spell,” and enjoy an excellent cup ‘o joe while perusing the local art that lines the walls. Now, only time will tell what the next step will be for the Shak.
So for those who have come to love the place, this weekend will be a bitter sweet time, as the Shak co-hosts the Winter Shindig with the Dance Club in downtown North Fork on Friday night, Dec. 13. They will be open on Saturday, and then close the doors, at least for now, at 3 p.m. on Sunday the 15th.