Serendipity Closed

Serendipity Market and More on East Patrick Street was closed Wednesday afternoon with a sign on the door reading “closed for staff meeting.”

The future of Serendipity Market and More is up in the air.

In a letter addressed to “members of the Serendipity family,” Managing Director Diane Branson explained that the East Patrick Street business in downtown Frederick has fallen on hard times in recent months. Among the issues it faces is an inability to pay the January rent, which in turn led the building’s owner to file for eviction.

“At this moment, I am not sure where to turn,” the email reads. “Our landlord has been patient as we have tried to get things back on track. … They are afraid that we will not be able to sustain the business even if we get January and February’s rents paid. As our space is one of the largest in the downtown, and was not able to be divided, our rent is larger than most.”

The owner of the building, Steve Chafitz, disputed Branson's eviction claims, saying that he had not filed for eviction, but rather he filed for failure to pay rent and in such cases, the business has the ability to pay past due rents.

Branson was unavailable for comment, despite the multiple requests that were made.

Summer was a tough season for the business, though a plan to move the store forward was discussed and ultimately implemented by late fall, the email said. Among the issues the store faced was the closing of Serenity Tearoom, which, as the email noted, befuddled customers who confused the two businesses with each other and thus stopped frequenting Serendipity.

“Our customer base slowed as they thought we were closing, therefore our sales decreased and then our inventory suffered,” the email stated. “It has been a scary cycle.”

As a result, Branson outlined steps the business has taken to remedy its troubles. Among the ideas Serendipity has explored is a plan to offer stalls to other small businesses that hope to have a downtown presence.

A focus on events is also on the docket for the business as it has brought in a new events coordinator to organize more classes and entertainment. Along those same lines, Serendipity also now has the ability to apply for a beer and wine license, something it had previously declined to do after hearing its customers were happy that it wasn’t a bar.

Also among the changes is a new chef who will be able to create new items; new restrooms and a wheelchair lift via grant applications; an updated art gallery; a new menu; and SpiritualiTEA, during which alternative medicine and spiritual practitioners will have tea with a group to share and answer questions.

The email then concludes with a list of questions looking for input from the community on how to turn business around, with the possibility of a Serendipity Club floated in hopes of creating a membership community that would offer discounts and meeting spaces.

“Every day I am very blessed to have conversations with customers who tell me how much they love our place,” Branson wrote. “They appreciate what we have created and love our food and staff. Those kind words keep us all going.”

For more information on Serendipity, go to www.serendipitymm.com.

Follow Colin McGuire on Twitter:

@colinpadraic.

(11) comments

Captain Yossarian

We mourn the business when it goes.

But what about all the working poor people who serve you and are homeless right now?

bryan

I think they should just focus on being a downtown grocery store. That and also a nice large fresh food bar like they have in New York City. That way residents could buy groceries or they could pick up a take-home dinner. Keep the back part open for drop in meetings and that’s it. Trying to be all things to all people doesn’t work for any business.

francesca_easa

Good ideas.

newspostreader

I hate to see anyone lose their investment and dreams. It feels like the storefront is probably one of the biggest challenges for them. It isn't inviting. It looks dated and has what appears to be old holiday lights draped around. It's a "Market & More" but what is more? Google Maps Street View doesn't show the Eat, Shop stickers so that must have been added more recently. Based on the picture, if I walked past this store, I'd be confused what they are offering. Downtown is hoping for lunch, especially week days, but if people think you're a market and not an eatery, they go on by. It's probably too late for them to make changes though.

Dwasserba

14 E. Patrick St. Numbers can be helpful so a fairy godmother can find exactly where on a long, busy and confusing street.

jessienjim

It was only a matter of time. Once rented it took them almost a year before they opened. Just another wanna be entrepreneur who had no clue how to run a business. Remember "Sweet Memories" the old time candy store downtown a few years back? Well, when the rent is $1,750 a month you need to sell an awful lot of candy before you`re nothing but a sweet memory. This business was paying twice that and more and was just as clueless. Now they too are a sweet memory.

mikec

I would be their rent was more than twice $1750. Downtown rents are expensive. To make a go it as a small independent business you need backing or substantial savings. The ones who do the best own their buildings.

kzat82

What ever happened to this being a grocery store? To me, it seems like a sandwich place that also sells chips.

sue1955

kzat, I thought the same thing when I read the article. At the time that it opened, it was touted as a grocery store where residents who live downtown could go for basic groceries. It was brought out that such residents were stating that there was nothing downtown where they could buy groceries. As a result, they had to drive outside of downtown to the grocery store (which people did not want to do).

Beside the issue of it being fundamentily difficult to sustain a small business (Business Administration 101), which has been a factor through the decades, I believe that the lack of satisfactory parking is a huge issue. The majority of people do not want to fool with a parking garage, no matter where they are. Frederick is just one example. This is the case across the country and, again, it is one factor why downtown businesses have failed. There is nothing like a surface parking lot with plenty of good parking.

Businesses tend to rely on foot traffic. Downtown Frederick is touted as a hip place for well paid residents who love to walk to their favorite businesses. Indeed, a lot of places are crowded with customers (e.g., restaurants), but paying rent and overhead work against profits.

sevenstones1000

In the end, though, you have to sell things that enough people want to buy.

Business Owner

Sorry to hear about this -- hopefully something can be worked out so they can stay.

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