Selma Cafe Takes a Hiatus

Selma Cafe, the Ann Arbor breakfast fundraiser that has supported local farming efforts since 2009, is taking an indefinite hiatus, according to co-founder and operations manager Lisa Gottlieb. The monthly gathering had previously announced that it would close just for the summer – the last breakfast was in May.

But on Aug. 18, Gottlieb posted this message on the Selma Cafe website: ”Dear friends and supporters of Selma Cafe, As we move towards September, the board of directors of Selma Cafe, and I, are discussing what is next for Selma Cafe. The monthly breakfast parties are currently on hold. Please stay tuned for updates on activities, and thanks to all for the love!”

Selma Cafe began as a weekly breakfast salon in 2009, held on Friday mornings at the home of Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe in Ann Arbor’s Eberwhite neighborhood, on the city’s west side. Operations were suspended in mid-April of 2013, after the city notified the group that the breakfasts were violating local zoning ordinances. At roughly the same time, Selma’s previous fiscal sponsor – the nonprofit Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP) – froze funds it held on behalf of Selma Cafe, citing violations of a memorandum of understanding between the two entities. Artrain, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit, agreed to take on the sponsorship responsibilities, and the IRS expedited Selma’s application for nonprofit status.

The volunteer-supported fundraising breakfasts resumed in June of 2013 at a new location – in the common house dining room at Sunward Cohousing, 424 Little Lake Drive. The cohousing community is located off of Jackson Road, west of Ann Arbor in Scio Township. The events shifted to a Saturday brunch, held monthly and featuring guest chefs and locally sourced food. Chefs this year have included Eduardo Rubio of Aventura and local attorney Nick Roumel, among others.

About a year ago, Selma Cafe received a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS, a final step needed to secure financial autonomy.

Board members for the nonprofit include Roumel, local farmer Nathan Lada, long-time Selma Cafe volunteers Susie Baity and Kyoko Yamamoto, and McCabe, who also is owner of Nifty Hoops.

Gottlieb, who emailed The Chronicle with the news on Aug. 18, indicated that the transition over the past year has been difficult, requiring a tremendous amount of work for her personally, although she stressed that Sunward Cohousing has been welcoming and has worked to accommodate Selma Cafe’s needs. She has also become interested in nonviolent communication (NVC), describing it as “a form of conflict resolution and peace making that seems essential to our world these days.” She’s been working closely with NVC-certified trainers to bring workshops and classes on into the Ann Arbor area, including a year-long training program. “I am finding that is currently where I have passion and stamina,” Gottlieb wrote in an email.

“The board of Selma Cafe and I are in discussions about what is next for our organization,” Gottlieb wrote, “and we are all very invested in finding new and creative ways to support local food and sustainable agriculture in the near future, while allowing the format of the breakfast parties to shift to other activities. We are all tremendously grateful and appreciative for the love and support from volunteers, guests and friends of Selma Cafe. I’ll keep the website updated as we move forward.”