A tiff over coffee? That’s the way the Capitol Hill Cookie Counter crumbles

A tiff over coffee has crumbled the hopes of a new Capitol Hill sweet shop before they had a chance to bake. The expansion of The Cookie Counter to E Pike has come to an end after only a few weeks of business.

Owner Chelsea Keene announced the sudden closure this week — along with a picture of a fractured cookie. “We are not able to go into much detail, but in a nutshell it is due to irreconcilable issues with our lease terms along with issues with a fellow building tenant,” she wrote. “We put so much into the space and having to leave so soon has crushed us.”

 

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Keene tells CHS The Cookie Counter business caused a kerfuffle in the E Pike building when it joined Gay City in the space. “We unfortunately had some issues with a fellow building tenant that did not allow us to operate with our full menu, limiting the beverages we could serve,” she said. “This was a major hindrance and with the fall & winter months approaching, we couldn’t successfully operate that way.”

“We’re sad to say goodbye,” Keene said. “Thank you to everyone that supported us.” The original Greenwood location, meanwhile, remains open.

Keene declined to elaborate on the E Pike dispute and “other lease issues” but a person close to the situation says the tiff started as soon as the vegan cookie business moved into the nonprofit Gay City’s open cafe space. Complaints from Kaladi Brothers pushed coffee and espresso off The Cookie Counter’s menu, leaving the sweet shop in the awkward and bad for business position of turning away customers looking for something to dunk their snickerdoodles in.

Kaladi has not responded to our inquiry about the situation.

The Greenwood-born dessert shop and café for vegan pastries, cookies, and ice cream moved into Kaladi’s former space inside the overhauled Gay City this summer after the Alaska-headquartered coffee chain’s move up the block to an expanded location. Gay City had hopes its choice of tenants would be the start of a new kind of partnership for the LGBTQ+ nonprofit to form a closer bond and collaborative partner with the business sharing its space.

Instead, the search begins for a new partner to fill the space. It’s likely coffee will not be part of the equation.

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21 thoughts on “A tiff over coffee? That’s the way the Capitol Hill Cookie Counter crumbles

  1. That’s a real shame as I loved their ice cream and it was nice to be able to pop in there while the line around Salt & Straw went around the corner.

  2. I find it weird that Kaladi would feel so threatened by this. Unless I’m missing something, you go to the cookie place for a cookie and maybe get some coffee as an afterthought. If you go to Kaladi, you’re going primarily for the coffee. I doubt anyone would go to the cookie place just for their coffee.

    • Exactly. A lot of people might see them as being petty, but if your lease guarantees you the exclusive as a coffee seller, and your landlord turned around and leased to another business that not only might poach some of your coffee business, but more importantly might also even result in a non-neglible amount of your pastry business defecting to the neighboring business, you’d be very justified in asking what good the lease is, if the landlord doesn’t have to hold up their part? What— now suddenly everyone’s on the landlord’s side? Oh brother. First time for everything.

    • Bob I’m not an expert so if I get this wrong I apologize in advance. Kaladi moved to another space in the same building. So these businesses are tenants in the same building with the same landlord. It sounds like that at least part of the issue is that Kaladi has a lease with a non competition clause in it.

      • I’m no expert either, but I’m pretty sure non competition clauses need to be in writing, need to actually exist, and need to be provided upon (repeated) request.

  3. Unfortunately, anyone claiming here to have knowledge of the lease terms (and any reference to exclusivity) aren’t basing their statements on facts, but just hearsay. The situation is a lot more complicated.

  4. We really liked having the Cookie Counter there, and bought there right after it opened. We thought it was another way to support Gay City. Not clear to me why some other beverage could not have been substituted for coffee, if indeed there were legal issues with the leasing.

    • that is absurd and so stupid Darnell. As a former cafe owner, I know there is very little profit in a cafe unless you are roasting your own beans and even then it is not easy. If another cafe were to open on the block I had my cafe, I would have to close permanently. In turn, a whole staff would lose their jobs.

  5. Well I know where I’ll tell my family and friends to never buy coffee again.

    Also, this is a vegan establishment. Kind of important for those who are vegan or have milk allergies (like me). Many traditional places, like Kaladi’s, pose a high cross-contamination risk. Sad to see it go so fast over something so dumb, glad I got to enjoy it a bit first.

    • your an idiot Jane. There is barely a sliver of profit running a cafe, having a place selling cookies is bad enough right next door, but coffee too would cause you to go out of business. Obviously you a
      have never owned a cafe. Maybe you should think things through before you start trying to hurt someone’s business by being an uninformed imbecile.

  6. Non-Compete clauses are very common in commercial leases. If they received any legal advice prior to signing their lease they should sue for malpractice. This was a rookie mistake and was totally foreseeable. Someone at Gay City should have known they could not sublet to a coffee shop. What a waste of time and money for something that was totally preventable.

    • Thank you, my thoughts exactly.

      How did the idea even get off the ground? There is A COMPETING BUSINESS IN THE SAME BUILDING.

      I mean…what a rookie mistake, but how did no one say anything until after the business was already open????

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