Root Cafe, Lakewood Hardware have trouble with the taxman

The Root Cafe, which received an attractive storefront renovation this summer, is one of the city's most popular small businesses

The Root Cafe, which underwent an attractive storefront renovation this summer, is one of the city’s most popular small businesses.

Running a small business is not for the faint of heart, particularly in Lakewood where Two Dads’ Diner, LaBella Cupcakes, Sullivan’s Irish Pub, Local Girl Gallery, and Zappitelli’s on Madison have all shuttered in the last year.

Now, two well-regarded businesses are in trouble with the taxman. There’s absolutely no indication they’re in danger of closing, but it’s another reminder of the challenges in the effort to bring vitality to the city and fill the empty storefronts along Detroit and Madison Avenues.

Lakewood Hardware: Defies conventional wisdom, delights residents

Locally-owned and operated hardware stores are an endangered species, victims of the unrelenting competition from big box stores where consumers can find lower prices and wider selections.

Glenn Palmer defied conventional wisdom and delighted residents — many of whom live in century-old homes in constant need of repair — when he opened Lakewood Hardware on Madison Avenue, across from Harding Middle School.

Now, almost five years later, Palmer’s Lakewood Hardware is the go-to resource for legions of homeowners looking for knowledgeable home repair advice and hard-to-find parts.

There have been bumps along the way, of course, including Palmer’s ongoing dance in Lakewood Municipal Court with the Division of Housing and Building over building code violations.

In addition, he and his wife, who operates Cuttin’ Loose Hair Salon in the building next to the hardware store, were about $24,500 behind on property tax on both buildings, although the amount was paid down and now stands at just $6,000.

With a persistently weak economy and lousy housing market, other signs of strain have emerged.

In August and September, the State of Ohio Department of Taxation placed five liens on Lakewood Hardware totaling about $24,000. The Internal Revenue Service placed a lien against the business earlier this month seeking payment of nearly $30,000 in delinquent taxes dating back to last year.

Although $54,000 in tax liens may seem severe, it doesn’t necessarily indicate doom is near. Payment plans are available to debtors and many businesses can continue as an enterprise without difficulty. The Hungry Howie’s Pizza and Sub franchise near the new McDonald’s on Detroit Avenue, for instance, was socked with $66,500 in IRS liens this year and is still serving up its flavored crust pizza.

Root Cafe: At the other end of the spectrum….the same issue

The Root Cafe has been open nearly three years and has the appearance of an undisputed success.

Uniquely Lakewood, it’s a star in the city’s downtown district, drawing customers in from afar with its well-reviewed food and cozy atmosphere. And yet, it’s in the same tax bind as Lakewood Hardware.

The IRS filed a $63,398 tax lien against the business earlier this month. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Bureau of Unemployment Compensation Tax also filed two liens in July and September totaling $10,170.

To the casual observer, it is a confounding situation. How can a high-profile business that seems to be thriving, actually be more than $70,000 behind on taxes?

The owners of the Root Cafe will surely be able work their way out of the situation and hopefully avoid similar problems in the future. Nevertheless, it’s an eye-opening matter that proves just how difficult running a small business can be.

Two Dads’ Diner Internet liquidation auction begins

13 swivel seats for sale

These swivel seats as well as numerous other items are up for grabs.

On a somewhat unrelated note, those interested in buying a memento from Two Dads’ Diner now have the opportunity to do so.

An Internet auction is underway to sell the final vestiges of the Detroit Avenue diner that closed late last winter.

So, if you want to recreate the Two Dads’ Diner breakfast counter in your kitchen, add the Two Dads’ Diner business sign to your basement, or perhaps pick up a set of decent-looking chairs, be sure to check it out.

The auction closes on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. You can check out the merchandise in person the same day from 9:00 am to 11:00 a.m.

Majorie Building renovation plans get first review

Above, a preliminary rendering of the exterior improvements proposed for the Marjorie Building. All of the storefronts would have exposed transom windows. Due to concerns about the effects of weathering, the storefronts (with the exception of Root Cafe) would have metal front doors. Although not formally included as part of the project, there is talk about adding an outdoor dining area on the western-side of the cafe.

Above, a preliminary rendering of the exterior improvements proposed for the Marjorie Building. All of the storefronts would have exposed transom windows. Due to concerns about the effects of weathering, the storefronts (with the exception of Root Cafe) would have metal front doors. Although not formally included as a part of the project, there is talk of adding an outdoor dining area on the west side of the cafe.

The Marjorie Building at 15100 Detroit Avenue is home to the Root Cafe and a handful of other businesses and apartment units.

Allied Real Estate Company acquired the property in July for $600,000 after the previous owner became entangled in a foreclosure situation.

A representative of the Mayfield Village-based company presented the Architectural Board of Review with a proposal for a four-phase improvement plan.

Phase One of the project will focus on renovation of the apartments on the west half of the building, repairing the sidewalks, trimming or replacing the trees, and installing a bike rack. The apartments on the east half of the building will be renovated in Phase Two. A key portion of the project, Phase Three, will begin in the spring when the storefront renovation performed on the Root Cafe this summer will be extended to the other storefronts. The final phase will focus on repairing the building’s garage.

The Board welcomed the preliminary plans, but wanted to get more detailed project specifications and voted to defer the matter until its next meeting.

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