It's not always coffee that brings Ami Hanna to A Cup of Joe.

Sometimes it's peace and quiet she craves, a place where she unwind, relax and enjoy a book.

Other times, Hanna seeks intelligent conversation — something that she says is served up daily by local artists, writers, musicians and others who frequent the downtown coffeehouse.

"I enjoy that there are creative and intelligent people from all parts of the community who come here because they like the atmosphere, the conversation and the intellectual stimulus that's here," Hanna said Wednesday, setting aside a book she'd picked up at the shop's informal book exchange.

"It's a calm, peaceful space," she said. "If you want time to yourself, you can find that. If you want conversation, you can find that, too."

Tonight, Hanna will be among those gathering at A Cup of Joe, 353 W. 200 South, to show support for the coffeehouse and other local businesses that are feeling the pinch of a worsening economy.

Kristy Gonzales, owner of A Cup of Joe since December 2006, is facing eviction after slow sales in March and April left her unable to meet her rent.

"My sales just tanked," Gonzales said. "I had taxes and rent come due at the same time. I chose to pay taxes and hope that my landlords would work with me, but they chose not to. I know not to do that again."

Community and arts groups who regularly meet or perform at the coffeehouse are encouraging anyone who supports local businesses to stop in at A Cup of Joe between 6 tonight and midnight Saturday and spend money on the shop's fresh-roasted coffee and baked goods from local vendors.

"It's time for her friends and customers to step up and say, 'We value this place,'" said Eileen McCabe, a Cup of Joe regular who is helping organize the event.

Local poets and musicians have been invited to perform during the 30-hour community gathering, and artists will be on hand to sell their work, McCabe said.

Organizers also have reached out to other local businesses, inviting owners to sell their products at the event and speak from the microphone about challenges they're facing as independent business owners.

"We need to really raise awareness in the community about the value of local businesses and what we need to do to step up and preserve these businesses," McCabe said.

In addition to the economic downturn, Gonzales' problems are made worse by a property-management company that she and other tenants have said is unsympathetic and unwilling to work with them.

The Artspace Rubber Co. building where A Cup of Joe is housed has 53 affordable-housing units above a ground-floor strip of retail. Some residents say they're concerned about the evictions of about a dozen of their neighbors since Evergreene Management Group began overseeing the property in October.

The building is one of three projects created by Artspace, a nonprofit organization that creates affordable space for people to live and work — apartments that cater to the arts community.

Artspace uses low-income tax credits to make the apartments affordable to those who qualify, said Jessica Norie, the organization's executive director.

At Artspace's direction, Evergreene has conducted a complete audit of tenants at the Rubber Co. building and its other projects — Artspace Bridge and Artspace City Center — to make sure they meet income restrictions and other requirements set by the IRS and overseen by the state.

Artspace also turned to Evergreene to help collect approximately $70,000 in unpaid rent, Norie said.

"We're a nonprofit, and our margins are close," she said. "We need (rent to be paid) for us to exist."

Despite appearing in court this week for an eviction hearing, Gonzales is doing her best to keep a coffee-mug-half-full attitude. She says she's already raised most of the back rent money she owes, and she's hoping the issue can be resolved without having to shut down.

"I didn't buy this business to close the doors or turn around a sell it," Gonzales said. "I love this place and all the people who come in here."

Norie called the possible eviction of A Cup of Joe an "unfortunate situation" — one that she, too, hopes can be resolved without losing the coffeehouse as a tenant.

"Nobody wants to see a small business close down," she said. "We don't like this. We don't want to kick anyone out."

Calls to Evergreene Management Group for comment Wednesday and Thursday were not returned.


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