Hudson -- The lights of Hattie's Cafe and Gifts on North Main Street will dim for the final time on New Years Eve.
"It was difficult to cover the cost of operating the cafe, and we did what was in the best interest of our employees with developmental disabilities," Jackie LoPresti, of Hattie Larlham corporate communications, said Dec. 4.
The cafe at 164 North Main St. will close its doors for good Dec. 31. One of six in the Akron area, it had been in Hudson for seven years and was the first cafe Hattie Larlham opened.
Hattie Larlham's vocational training and employment programs are designed to enhance the lives of people with developmental disabilities through meaningful work, LoPresti said.
"The programs provide on-the-job training and prepare people with developmental disabilities to maintain a job in the general workforce," LoPresti added.
The Hudson location will be the second cafe closed in December. Hattie's Café and Gifts in the downtown Akron Stubbs Justice Center, 217 South High St., will close Dec. 20.
"Hattie Larlham would like to thank the city of Hudson and its citizens for their support during the past seven years," LoPresti said.
The 12 employees and five support staff members have been reassigned within Hattie Larlham to work with other vocational programs, LoPresti said.
"Café employees have learned valuable work and social skills during their time in Hudson, preparing them for the next step in their careers," LoPresti said. "Hattie Larlham is proud of their accomplishments and looks forward to working with them in their future endeavors."
The decision to close the cafe was made in early November, according to Dotty Grexa, vice president of vocational and enterprise services.
"We monitor the results of all of our locations on an annual basis," Grexa said. "The cafe has never found its way to break even or even come close to break even."
Grexa called the decision to close the cafe "very difficult."
"It was not made lightly," Grexa said. "Since the cafe opened seven years ago, and up through the current year, our revenues have declined 48 percent and our customer count is off 34 percent."
The decline has been slow, but steady, Grexa added.
Most food or retail businesses are given three to five years to mature and break even, Grexa said.
"At the end of last year we put it [the cafe] on a significant watch and said 'if we can find any signs that it's improving, we won't close it,'" Grexa said. "But it actually got worse so we had to make that really tough decision."
The company looked at downsizing to a smaller building to stay in Hudson, but it could not be worked out.
"It is a very, very special location to us," Grexa said.
When the cafe opened in Hudson, there were six workers with disabilities in the entire vocational program, Grexa said. That number is now 211.
"On behalf of myself and the staff, we have loved every minute that we've been in Hudson and we are really sad to leave," Grexa said. "But we really wanted to say thank you for everybody's support the community has been absolutely wonderful to us."
Jane Martin, of Hudson, is a regular visitor to the cafe.
"It breaks my heart and part of me really hopes that we can stop it," Martin said. "It's such a valuable organization and it's sad to me after all that Hatties has done, saving the Saywell [Drug] fountain and making such a beautiful place, we could not support it."
Martin and her family used to ride their bikes to Hatties in the summer and wants to start a "Save Hattie's campaign."
However, according to LoPresti, it's too late to safe the cafe.
"It is very much appreciated but this is confirmed and we have already been in the process of closing," LoPresti, said.
"As much as we would love to get behind something like that, I don't think it sustainable over time," Grexa said.
"It does my heart good to hear here is that kind of affection for what we do," he added. "We appreciate it."
Liz Murphy, of Destination Hudson, heard the news last week, she said.
"It's very sad for Main Street and Hudson," Murphy said. "I, and everyone else, really hopes someone will take over and keep the soda fountain."
Hudson residents are encouraged to visit the café throughout December and wish the staff happy holidays. The cafe will offer discounts on products throughout the holiday season as the program reduces its inventory.
For more information about the Hudson Hattie's Café and Gifts, call Grexa at 330-274-2272 ext. 7000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.