College Market to close doors this month

College Market to close doors this month

POCATELLO, Idaho - After 20 years, a Pocatello institution is closing its doors.

College Market Coffeehouse hasn't just been serving people coffee for two decades, but it's given a physical location to the heart of a community. The owners announced the closure on Facebook recently, saying everything in the shop is on sale before it closes on June 30.

But 1992, the red brick building at the corner of 8th Street and Halliday Street was boarded up and overgrown: that's how the College Market started. Executive Manager Gail White worked for months turning the abandoned university district building into a thriving hot spot that just happened to be full of people playing "Geek Trivia" -- put on by the Marshall Public Library -- on Saturday.

"It was exactly what I hoped for. You know, the College Market has been so successful in so many ways that are not financial, and those are the things that are the most important to me," White said.

Those successes are what make the closing of the shop so unbelievable for so many people, White said. Customers in the seats don't equate to money in the register, she said.

"We really should have been a non-profit organization all along. We should have set up as a community center and study hall, you know, but we didn't. We are a for-profit corporation and when there's more going out than coming in you can only go so long," she said.

And so what goes away isn't just a business, but, what barista Harmony Skerrett calls, a historic landmark. She would know, she's worked here for 10 years.

"I think for a lot of students and a lot of professors, it's been a safe haven away from the hullabaloo at the college and politics and negative feelings. It's going to effect people pretty severely," Skerrett said.

Regular customer and Idaho State University art professor Lou Pirro has been coming to the shop since it opened.

"Over time it starts to feel like family, and for somebody like me who kind of is a transplant, it's been a home away from home and that is going to be hard to replace," Pirro said.

Pirro said his memories at the Market are too numerous to pick out just one, but White managed to dig one up from 1995. She pulled out a poster he drew for a contest the shop held. Pirro said his tab was getting too large, and he wanted the $150 prize pretty badly. So, he drew a winner -- an Art Nouveau-style composite with a College Market banner above the city of Pocatello.

"The College Market is one of those places that, if it doesn't make money, at least it makes meaning in people's lives, and I think that is what's going to be hard to replace," Pirro said.

White said, this is surely a sad thing. But more than sadness, she said she feels gratified that so many people felt the way she hoped they would feel at College Market, and were willing to come together and make it work for as long as they did.

"If I could give citizens a piece of advice, I would say, those business that make this place home to you, if you want them there tomorrow, go in and support them today," she said.

There is a silver lining: The market, and everything in it, is for sale. The asking price is $185,000. White said, she's had some interest, but no firm offers yet.

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