Friday, May 28, 2010

Cafe O'Play Turns Out the Lights

To the dismay of many families in the area, Cafe O'Play, an indoor playspace for kids located on Blakely behind the UVillage, has shut down operations as a playspace. restaurant and community meeting space.

The last event will be a big, multi-seller rummage sale tomorrow and Sunday from 9:00-4pm.

Tom Zeiler, the owner, says there are still have a few spaces available for additional sellers at the sale and the fee for a space is $8 and is good for both days. If you are interested email:

Cafe O'Play opened late January of this year to the excitement of many families and Tom's mission was to be "the premier family-friendly third place community gathering spot in the greater Seattle area."

It was a very busy venue, where many groups gathered, incuding among others PEPS, Seattle Stay at Home Moms Group, birthday parties and some local authors readings and signings.

And Sunday, along with the Rummage Sale, will also be its last community event with the children's clothing show by designer MiMi Bug from 10:30-3pm.

These events and others were held in the historical multi-purpose room whose walls are plastered with hundreds of author signatures and illustrations from the days of the All For Kids Bookstore who occupied the space for almost 25 years.

Tom Zeiler, sent email out to the NE Seattle Moms Yahoo Group, about the closing:

We regret to announce that Cafe O’ Play will not be able to remain at 2900 NE Blakeley beyond the end of May. Given that the response to the concept has been so very enthusiastic, we are hopeful that we will be able to find a new location, new partners (interested? send us an email or come in and chat!), and re-open elsewhere soon.

Cafe O’ Play staff would like to take this opportunity to thank the community for all the appreciation and support they have already given — it has truly been fantastic to feel so wanted!

Tom tells us that the main reason was a dwindling budget. He says: "I never imagined that the permit process could take so long. By the time the cafe opened, my small-potatoes budget was fairly well shot.

Despite the fact that our revenues were pretty remarkable for a new venture, we sustained losses in the first three months that were enough to just about bottom out the bank account. On top of that, we knew we we had a lot of 'foul-weather friends' and so would be facing a steep uphill battle what with summer on the way. I had a lease cancellation option, and, being in a bit of a panic, I exercised it.

We looked for investors, or even someone to buy the business outright. Some folks backed away immediately when they heard what the rent was - the square-foot rate we were paying was very reasonable by U-Village-area standards, but it is a big space and all those square feet add up. (It's about 3,300 square feet.)

I finally resolved that I would go to the landlord with a 'hail Mary pass' -- I would re-commit to making it fly, set aside all of the anxiety and ambivalence I was feeling, borrow money as necessary, basically pull out all the stops, but only on condition that I could negotiate a mini-lease with a temporary rent break. He nipped that discussion in the bud, however - 'not really interested'."

Tom tells us that many people have expressed interest in being part of a "Cafe O' Play 2.0" project, but by now Tom has lost the "will to spearhead any such effort, and no one seems to be stepping in to fill the leadership vacuum."

He says Cafe O' Play can "still be bought - remaining equipment, furnishings, name, website, mailing list. I might be willing to be involved in a relocation/re-envisioning -- in some sort of role other than 'owner'."

Tom also told us that he is interested in collecting "failed restaurant start-up" stories. And says "Maybe some of your readers have a tale to tell, or know someone who does?" If you do, contact him at

Thanks Tom, family and staff for giving your great idea a shot, even though your bank account was suffering. It was a very well -received concept and  a very fun go to place for many families and we're sorry to see the lights out now.

No comments: