Monday, August 7, 2017

Seeds Community Café closes due to financial issues

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 5:41 PM

click to enlarge Farewell, Seeds Community Café. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Farewell, Seeds Community Café.
In surprising news, Seeds Community Café has closed, effective Friday, August 4. A press release, dated August 7 explained that the Seeds board decided to close the four-year-old business after they found the pay-what-you-can charitable eatery and catering business was "not financially sustainable in part due to past financial decisions coupled with lack of donations and customer traffic."

Given a little context, there's a lot to unpack in that sentence. Earlier this year, Seeds founder Lyn Harwell stepped down from his position as executive director. Shortly after, claims of financial mismanagement surfaced from Seeds' leadership. Internal documents released by the board suggest serious financial mismanagement by Harwell.

To briefly recap, for six months Harwell did not pay employees, vendors or taxes. Further, the documents show show he failed to ensure that Seeds had the necessary insurance coverage. Board members also claim Harwell made personal purchases on the café's credit cards and that Seeds accrued $92,000 in debt without the board's knowledge, a total that executive director Jennifer Bostick and Board President Gene Tanski say they paid down by a third between November 2016 and June 2017. For a detailed breakdown on the situation, check out Colorado Springs Business Journal (owned by Indy parent company Colorado Publishing House) managing editor Bryan Grossman's article from June 9 here. Critically, Tanski noted that while Harwell's alleged actions were unprofessional, it's unlikely that there isn't a serious legal issue in play.

Harwell called the claims "inaccurate and unsubstantiated," for his part, but in light of Seeds closing, it's hard not to wrinkle one's nose at the situation as a whole. Further, Seeds' closure and Harwell's implied role may cast a shadow on his new Manitou endeavor, CrEATe Café.

Look for more details on the situation in the near future. For now, we've included the body of the press release below.

After more than three and a half years of impacting Colorado Springs working to solve hunger insecurity, transforming lives through training and education and building a sense of community, Seeds Community Café closed its doors Friday Aug 4 for its last service.

The executive director, Jennifer Bostick and the rest of the board decided that Seeds was not financially sustainable in part due to past financial decisions coupled with lack of donations and customer traffic.

“This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make,” said Bostick. “We have had such a great relationship with the local community, businesses, food growers and producers. Everyone involved with Seeds is dedicated to reducing food insecurity around the world and we believe the best way to impact that is through locally grown initiatives. Our customers, volunteers and donors have truly transformed numerous lives since the inception of Seeds and we are hopeful that someone will pick up the torch in Colorado Springs.”

Seeds leadership is taking steps to wind down current commitments and over the next couple of weeks will work to dissolve the business.

“There are still several avenues for our volunteers to support the local community, and we hope that those who have helped us will continue to take the time to give back,” said Bostick. “Our wonderful customers also were involved in our mission and we hope they will continue to support Colorado Springs by choosing to spend their dollars locally. We would like to thank all of our supporters and diners and appreciate everyone who believed in our mission.”

Seeds proved that one café can positively impact people who are looking to take responsibility for improving their lives. With a small paid staff, Seeds took a volunteer-driven business to serve more than 60,000 meals over the past 3 and a half years.

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