Midtown's Creme de Cafe expresso coffee shop is the latest victim of the financial crunch and competition. It abruptly closed its doors Wednesday (Oct. 29), leaving behind only "Sorry, we're closed" signs with sad-mouthed smiley faces.
A neighbor who did not want to be identified said the owners owed back rent of at least $14,000, plus utility bills. Finally, he said, the city cut off its power Wednesday and Creme de Cafe, 3191 Middlefield Road at Loma Verde Avenue, served its final cup of coffee.
"They just couldn't compete any more for customers -- too many other options for people to go," the source said.
Hand-written notes are taped to the front and side doors/ "Sorry, we're closed," they say, next to sad-mouthed "smiley faces." Tables and chairs are visible in the darkened interior, as are all the coffee mugs and cappuccino machines. Cookies remain in the cookie jars.
"They left quickly," according to the source.
Two out of three young men sitting at an outside table Saturday afternoon said they worked there, and one -- Sho Murphy-Shigamatsu of Palo Alto -- still had the key to the door.
He and Alex Glenard, also of Palo Alto, said they had worked there about six months. They indicated money was coming in but clearly the shop needed more customers.
They said a number of customers -- perhaps 30 or 40 -- had active prepaid "coffee cards" with balances ranging from $12 to $25.
Charla Ender was unaware Creme de Cafe had closed as she walked up to the locked front door Saturday and tried to open it. "I'm shocked," she said.
"I've been coming here on the weekends for years. I still have my coffee card. It's got 15 dollars left on it. Now what?," she asked. Make that "owed" amount $14,015-plus.
Owner/Manager Chiara Basso could not be reached for comment on the sudden closure.
The coffee shop was a popular, low-key, neighborhood meeting place. It gained international fame in 1996 when, Harley, a small, affectionate cat who was a favorite of customers, mysteriously disappeared. Turns out Harley was accidentally shipped to Japan -- a case of mistaken identity.
After several months, dozens of phone calls and stacks of paperwork, Harley was returned to Palo Alto in an ultimate "The cat came back ..." story. But Creme de Cafe seems gone for good.