Colectivo Coffee closing two cafe locations ‘until further notice’

Cancels plans to build Troubadour Baking facility in Chicago

Colectivo's Third Ward cafe on St. Paul Ave.

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a financial toll on local food and beverage establishments, Colectivo Coffee Roasters Inc. says it’s closing two of its locations for the time being.

Colectivo cafes in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward and on Capitol Square in Madison will both close effective Nov. 1, the company said in a news release Thursday. The decision comes after both locations sustained significant declines in sales due to COVID-19.

While the closures are temporary, the Milwaukee-based company currently does not know when the cafes will reopen, said vice president of brand, marketing and retail Scott Schwebel in an email. 

“We are saddened to close these cafes for our co-workers and the customers they serve,” said Schwebel in the release. “We tried to make a go of it, but they simply are not viable in this COVID environment. We are rooting for a return to normalcy in these neighborhoods and Colectivo looks forward to being there for these communities when they bounce back.”

So far, 11 of Colectivo’s 13 Milwaukee-area locations have reopened since the pandemic’s original shutdown in March. Its cafes in the U.S. Bank building in downtown Milwaukee and at Bayshore in Glendale remain closed due to lack of financial viability, with no foreseeable reopening date, according to the release. 

In addition, the company is backing out of plans to construct a production site for its wholesale baking business, Troubadour Bakery, in Chicago’s West Loop. The project had been slated to begin construction in March, but was temporarily on hold due to the pandemic. Now, Colectivo says the endeavor is permanently cancelled as a “direct result of the pandemic and numerous Chicago marketplace uncertainties.”

Troubadour operates out of Colectivo’s Bay View location. A second baking facility would have supported the company’s five Chicago cafes and future expansion in the area.

“We are focused on getting through this as a company, trying to preserve our operations along with as many jobs as we can while balancing the unknowns of COVID and the swirling circumstances we are facing as an organization,” said Schwebel. 

Like many small businesses, Colectivo has had to take drastic measures to stay afloat over the past seven months. It unveiled contactless ordering via its custom-built mobile app and shifted its business model to focus on curbside, delivery and carry-out service.

Meanwhile, a group of Colectivo employees have been pushing to organize a labor union through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The effort has been backed by nine members of Milwaukee’s Common Council, who issued a statement of support last month.

Colectivo’s owners are not on board with the unionization efforts. In a statement previously sent to BizTimes Milwaukee, Colectivo said it respects the right of all workers to organize, but “it’s our belief that introducing the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers into Colectivo would change the open, collaborative and direct-relationship culture we’ve painstakingly built with our employees over those 27 years.” 

As of Sept. 23, the company said only a “small number” of its employees are publicly advocating for a union, and “have yet to demonstrate the 30% level of interest that would trigger an election.” 

BizTimes’ requests for comment from the local chapters of the IBEW have not been returned.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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