By Tim Eberly
Havre's only two coffee houses are calling it quits, adding to the number of local businesses which have closed in recent months.
Java to Java, a cyber cafe, coffee and sandwich shop, closed its doors Sept. 8. And Jitter's Coffee House, several blocks west of Java to Java on U.S. Highway 2, will close Saturday. Both owners cited the sluggish ecomony as the main cause of their closings.
Since July, four other Havre businesses have shut down, beginning with the Wooden Heart gift shop in the Atrium Mall. The Park Restaurant and the Park Hotel closed in the first and third weeks of August, respectively. The Taco Time fast-food restaurant, which was owned by Park Restaurant and Hotel owners Pat and Betty Knudson, closed within days of the Park Hotel.
"I don't think anybody is doing well (financially)," said Jitter's owner Colleen Cross, who put her business up for sale last autumn. "Economically, things are in such a slump. It's just time to let it go. I think anybody who owns a business in Havre understands the stuggle."
Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, said she doesn't think the closings constitute a trend. "I think you need to look at each of these businesses as individuals. I would not label anything as a trend. I think Havre will be here, and the businesses will survive."
Cross leased Jitter's for a year before purchasing the establishment in July 1998. She had worked behind the counter for three years before leasing it. However, in February, Cross fell victim to a head-on car collision three miles west of Havre, crushing the left side of her face. She underwent plastic surgery and was forced to miss six months of work. Cross' two part-time employees were bumped up to full time, which put a strain on her already-struggling finances.
"That's what really sunk it," Cross said. "It was just chaos for the first couple of months."
Cross said she could not place blame on Havre for Jitter's downfall.
"I could never say the people of Havre didn't support me," Cross said. "They've been great. We're really thankful for all the business we've gotten. It's been a ride; it's been a hoot."
While cleaning out her shop on Wednesday, 31-year-old Karia Campbell, Java to Java's owner, said she made the decision to close within the last two weeks. She had not been aware how financially unstable her business was, Campbell said. Campbell's father, Jack, said the overhead of the 10 leased computers in the shop, which opened in April, proved too costly.
"We're trying to get the leases reduced," Jack Campbell said. "We're going to try to salvage something. It could work if the overhead came down."