August of 2002 marked the start of my journey as an entrepreneur.
To call it a cafe was a generous statement — in realty it was a poorly lit warehouse with minimal climate control and a 3’ high stage in the back that could pack in 250-300 bodies on any given night.
We occasionally served Folgers drip coffee but mostly Kirkland brand bottles of water I would buy for $0.07 and sell for $2.
In our 5 year run we booked quite a number of “national” bands including My Chemical Romance, The Jonas Brothers, Fallout Boy, Paramore, Steel Train, The Starting Line, The Movielife, Sick of It All, Avail and countless more.
I could continue with the name drops but chances are, if you were a touring hardcore or emo band in the early 2000’s, Bloomfield Ave. Cafe was on your booking itinerary.
Over the years, people have told me countless times that hanging out at “the club” on weekends were some of the best memories of their teenage years.
The only reason I even took the plunge was that I had this sub-surface level instinct I didn’t want to work for anyone else.
The term “entrepreneur” never even crossed my mind — I only did it because my interest in playing music and throwing basement shows happened to coincide with an equally strong desire to avoid any sort of adult responsibility.
I suppose it was about a year into being open that I started to realize that running a business actually came with a whole lot of responsibility.
At the end of the day, I was the only one who was going to make sure staff showed up on time, the utilities were paid for and that the garbage went out on Sunday nights.
Most importantly, I was the only person truly responsible for making sure more money entered the bank account than exited on any given month.
Kicking and screaming, I was forced into entrepreneurship, forced to accept responsibility and forced into growing up.
I started to read books about how to run a business.
I remember reading The Ten-Day MBA and legitimately having a lightbulb moment when I realized all of the things I had no idea about.
I started to meet with other business owners and I would ask them how they overcame their obstacles and struggles.
I started an IRA for myself and investing in broad based index funds — after all, who else was going to look out for me when I was old.
I fired my accountant who failed to even let me know that IRAs could be used as a tax shelter but simultaneously tried to sell me a bunch of “loaded’ mutual funds.
I learned, I grew, and I absorbed each piece of advice and every lesson I could.
If you’re looking for a story culminating in a successful exit, sadly you’re in the wrong place.
Bloomfield Ave Cafe & Stage closed it’s doors on January 15th, 2007 to very little fan fair when we were shut down by the Montclair Fire Marshal.
They cited safety concerns, which were, ironically enough, related to an illegal exhaust vent hookup in our basement made by a neighboring tenant.
A small part of me died that night knowing that the clock had all but run out, but truth be told, my heart just wasn’t in it at that point.
So with bittersweet relief, I closed one chapter of my life and embraced the chance to start fresh.
I’m grateful for Bloomfield Ave Cafe and how it gave me space to stumble into entrepreneurship.
I’m grateful for all the bands I was able to play and work with during our tenure.
I’m grateful for my role in serving the New Jersey music scene in whatever small way I was capable of.
I’m grateful for all the friendships I made during those crucial years.
I’m grateful whenever I receive a random text or run into someone whom I deeply love but sadly fell out of contact with.
Most of all, I’m grateful to have had the chance to apply the lessons I learned and the spirit of that community into all of my future endeavors.
And I suppose that is all we can ask for.