Business is slow, says barista Tresa Couch at Mellelo's Coffee Roasters in the Central Library building. Jim Craven 7/25/2007

Where the sidewalk ends

A few businesses near the downtown Medford library are reeling from a drop-off in customers after the busy 80,000 square-foot building closed April 6.

"We were getting killed," said Ben Tresser, owner of the Yellow Submarine Sandwich Shop, which closed for the first time this summer because his business declined sharply immediately after the library shut down. "We just can't run it at a loss."

Tresser, who also owns the Yellow Submarine Car Wash, said he plans to reopen the sandwich shop after Labor Day when students return to Rogue Community College.

The loss of the library is a blow to downtown Medford, said Tresser, also pointing to the empty lot of the proposed Bella Vita, a commercial and residential project.

"This whole renaissance and rejuvenation of the downtown is stalled," he said.

Mellelo's Coffee Roasters leases space in the library for a store that had been successful until all 15 branches in Jackson County closed their doors because of budget problems.

"This store is a home run except for one thing — there are no customers here," said owner Sal Mellelo. "This is a ghost town."

Business has dropped 73 percent at the library store since the closure, he said. The store is now shut on Saturdays and also closes its doors at 5 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

"It's not rocket science that the number of people walking there is down," said Mellelo. "That store is very dependent on the library."

At some point, Mellelo said he might have to make a decision about the future of the store, but wants to meet with county officials first to find out what the prospects are to reopen the library.

"I feel very confident the county will overcome their financial setbacks," he said.

Mellelo said the library is a great asset to downtown Medford and he laments its loss, particularly for the children.

Despite his feelings about the library, Mellelo said he can't lose sight of the fact that he's in business to make money.

"We'll give it some time, but how much time I'm not going to say," he said. "We have not made any decision to close that store."

His two other downtown Medford stores are continuing to do well and Mellelo's growing business is prospering enough that he could continue to support the library coffee shop for some time. Mellelo said plans are in the works for a major expansion of his business that he will announce in the near future.

Other businesses in the area didn't report any marked decline in business.

Bad Ass Coffee on Riverside Avenue has seen a dip in the number of library workers who formerly bought coffee, but hasn't seen any overall decline in business.

The Tasty Thai restaurant a few blocks south of the library on Central has seen a dip in business that has been more significant than other summers.

"I'm sure closing down the library has not helped at all," said owner Somkanay Dechasiri. "This summer has been a little slow."

Dechasiri said he'll have to wait until the winter season to say how much of an effect the library closure has had on business.

Jackie Rodgers, MURA director, said she didn't see any dramatic problems for the revitalization of the downtown caused by the empty library.

"We see no negative impact from the closure," she said. "There's no panic, no reason to say that everything has stopped for what we see as a temporary closure."

The downtown has a strong foundation of businesses that haven't been affected by the library, she said.

"We are fortunate that it hasn't been more than what it has been," Rodgers said. "We are fortunate it is a small percentage (of businesses)."

Rodgers said she wasn't downplaying the significance of the closure of one of the largest buildings downtown, nor its affect on businesses nearby. "It's always a concern when anything closes downtown," she said.

Rodgers said she found it a stretch to say that the Thai restaurant's slowdown is a result of the library. She also wondered whether the RCC campus being closed had more to do with the temporary closure of Yellow Submarine.

Work is going on behind the scenes for Bella Vita, said Rodgers, who also cited the efforts by Lithia Motors to build its headquarters downtown.

Rodgers pointed to the overall booming health of Mellelo's as well as the success of a number of other businesses in the downtown.

Cutting back the hours at the library coffee shop has affected the Friends of the Medford Library bookstore, which also remains open within the library building.

Pat Guild, a member of the management team, said the bookstore had to close on Saturdays because access to the bathroom is inside Mellelo's. The hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and from noon to 4 p.m. Friday.

Despite the closure of the library, the bookstore's business is about the same and perhaps slightly better, said Guild.

But the closure of the library catches those coming to downtown Medford off-guard.

"Visitors from out of town stop at the library to use the computer," she said. When they find out the library is closed, Guild said, "They're horrified."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

Share This Story