Published Wednesday, November 02, 2011
The Newnan Times-Herald
The Moreland Town Council has approved a year's lease for Old South Junction Coffee Shop -- but only after drawing the ire of local residents.
Councilman Dick Ford was authorized to negotiate a new lease with John Suttles, who runs the coffee shop in space in the historic Moreland Mill. At the October council meeting, Ford made a motion to give Suttles another lease and have Suttles pay 15 percent of receipts to the town.
For the first year, the town did not charge Suttles any rent.
"It's not going to be a lot of money, but it is something," Ford said. "Obviously, he doesn't make a whole lot."
Ford said Suttles would be required to provide the town with a financial statement showing what the coffee shop is making.
"I think a year would make sense," said Mayor Josh Evans, who votes only in the event of a tie. Ford made a motion to grant Suttles a new lease for a year with the proprietor paying a 15 percent fee as rent.
For a time, it appeared there would not be a second for Ford's motion. "I think it's a nice idea to have a coffee shop. However, I don't see how it's cost effective for the town," said Councilwoman Carmen Brown.
The lack of support drew fervent comments from local citizens. "You can't do that to the community. You just can't do it," local resident Angie Perry said.
Perry talked specifically about the Friday night events at the coffee shop and the variety of music presented. "They're doing really good stuff, and they're entertaining a lot of our community," she said.
Pam Ford, the councilman's wife, was also direct in her comments. "We as taxpaying citizens of the town, we don't get a whole lot in return," she said. She added that if the council follows a negative course, "you're not going to have community participation in much of anything."
Troy Payne said the town should do more to help Suttles. "Don't kick him out," Payne said. "Put a sign out there."
Carol Chancey of Reel Southern Adventure has been working with the town, tourism entities and Suttles in an effort to grow Moreland's tourist traffic. She said that if the coffee shop closes, "that Friday event is going as well."
Brown said she "wouldn't want to kill" the Friday music event, but suggested charging for people to enter. Some present said charging could hurt attendance in a time when the economy is hitting many people.
"We need to do something for our citizens," Dick Ford stated. Pam Ford observed that people who attend the Friday event get to "look at the building," which could lead to more use of the structure.
Chancey said electric bills for the mill have been running an average of $263 per month for the past year, compared to $147 per month for the previous year. She said it is impossible to separate the coffee shop portion of the electric bill since other activities also are held at the mill.
The coffee shop "adds to all of the tourism effort," Chancey said. "Food service is a key to building other businesses because it attracts people who hang around."
Moreland has followed in the path of some other small towns in providing incubator space for a needed business that could not succeed otherwise in that market. "The cost of somebody coming in here and starting a restaurant is so high," Chancey said.
She said the coffee shop has developed a regular clientele, and she pointed to the rousing success of the Friday night event that involves music and catered food. "You helped it get started," Chancey reminded the council. "The building is starting to really serve the whole community."
Chancey said Moreland is not alone in trying new tactics to bring business, services and revenue to town. She cited projects in Thomaston, Carrollton and Hollonville. "Getting that interest is the first step to getting people to come," she said.
Chancey also noted the economic development plan approved by the council identifies tourism as "the least expensive and easiest to attract" of economic opportunities.
Chancey also talked about the work Suttles has done. "He built a partition out of antique lumber," she noted. She said people who have visited the mill -- with an eye to renting it for an event -- have admired the improvements made by Suttles.
Ford said the coffee shop has brought many people to town "who have never been in the mill before." Local resident Joyce Evans said visitors to town have commented on "how much the mill has changed and how wonderful it's looking."
After much discussion by the council and comments by the citizens, Councilman Myron McLain seconded Ford's motion, which then passed unanimously.
Mayor Evans told the council he plans to put together a task force to study the overall needs and uses of the mill and make recommendations to the council.
The council also talked about directional signs to help visitors find the museums and other amenities in town. "I want it to look nice," Councilman Jeff Burgess said. Chancey made a presentation to the council and said the signs should be similar to those in Senoia in the sense that "it all looks like it goes together."