EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 7, 2013

Things looking better for Sad Cafe

Financial concerns eased, new energy and direction

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW— a year ago, the Sad Cafe was fighting to stay afloat. But this year, leaders of the nonprofit organization are looking to expand programs.

“We aren’t a place that needs to be saved anymore,” executive director Joe Kay said.

The Sad Cafe is a nonprofit group on Plaistow Road, touted as a substance-free space for local musicians to perform. The facility has long struggled to stay solvent. Last year, former executive director Ruth Kay said the cafe was in danger of closing four or five times in the last 15 years.

The cafe is usually open Friday and Saturday nights. This summer, the schedule is going to be a little bigger.

“We’re going to do karaoke Wednesdays,” vice president Michelle Roux said. “We’ll have talent shows on Tuesdays. We want this to be more than just Friday and Saturday.”

Kay said a recent restructuring of the organization’s board of directors was the biggest spark for a change. Kay took over as the executive director after his mother, Ruth, resigned earlier this year.

“We’ve got people coming in with fresh ideas,” Roux said. “Having new programs creates more money, and that gets us out of the trouble we were in.”

Kay estimated it costs $200,000 to run the facility each year.

“It should really be more than that,” he said. “But we are talking about ways to better budget the money we have and to format our programs.”

The organization makes money from show admissions and fundraising efforts. Voters in Kingston, Atkinson, Danville and Plaistow have approved warrant articles to support the cafe.

Kay said kids were out in front of businesses one weekend in June, raising money for a Tag Day fundraiser.

“Financially, we are doing good, successful fundraisers,” he said.

A target in the past has been to secure a corporate sponsor for the cafe, but those efforts have now been abandoned.

“With our clientele, we realized it is hard to get something like that,” he said. “Our hope is that our fundraising will get us to that certain place we need to be.”

Leaders are optimistic, but they still need more help.

“This is a great place to invest in the arts and some kids who are doing great things,” Kay said.

Roux said the change at the top has caused them to think of it as a new beginning.

“We are creating a new vibe here” she said. “The attitude has changed and we think of it as a new, up and coming Sad Cafe.”