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.