Winning Coffee, a staple of the Bricklight District on Central Avenue of more than 20 years, closed down on April 20 — and its effects on the community have been felt by many.
One unnamed customer at Winning wrote a letter saying how they’d have no reason to be in the Bricklight District if Winning Coffee were to shut down.
“If Winning Coffee closed, I’d have little reason to be on this block,” read the letter.
Another customer, Nicholas Ashton Morse, an architecture student at the University of New Mexico, lamented that sentiment and said: “I probably would not visit this area much and rely on less convenient food and drink solutions.”
To many, the coffee shop meant a lot more than just a quick bite and drink.
“I think we all realized what it means to us and we met some of our best friends through it and hopefully that legacy of community will continue,” Isaac Pushkin, a former employee and longtime customer of over a decade, told New Mexico News Port.
Throughout the days leading up to Winning’s closing, many regular customers shed tears and purchased books from Bradley’s, the staple book merchant at Winning, as souvenirs.
Some, like Pushkin, will miss the options for reading at the coffee shop.
“It shaped me as a reader, forming my interest in literature and philosophy,” Pushkin said.
In early April, New Mexico News Port reported on Winning’s business troubles. At the time, Chris Jacobsen, the owner of Winning, said he’d opted to cut the store hours to reduce costs.
Jacobsen pushed blame on ART. He said that the construction in 2017 and the now absent left turn traveling south on Central Avenue had left his business “fighting tooth and nail” to stay open.
Jacobsen said that Winning Coffee was losing 10 to 15% of its profits since 2017 because of ART and other, non-local coffee competitors in the area. In a later report from the Daily Lobo on April 15, Matthew Jacobsen said the business would need to make an extra $4,00 to $5,000 to “stay afloat.”
He also said that the rising rent, which was bound to happen because of contractual obligations, contributed to the business’ demise as well. There was wordage in the agreement that would up the rent regardless of business profits.
Now, Jacobsen, his wife and son Matthew Jacobsen have been left pondering what they could have done — and if anything different could have helped the failing business at all.
The loss of Winning Coffee has already had a profound effect on the community, Pushkin said.
“Winning won my heart years ago,” Pushkin said. “It wasn’t exactly the coffee—which to be fair is as fresh as it comes—but rather the personality. Winning Coffee won my heart because there I could be the unique person I am and not feel threatened by not looking, acting or talking a certain way.
“Going to Winning, I could go out and still be at home, even amid total strangers. This was very important to me as a kid of 15, and I’m not surprised that it still is.”
Winning Coffee has a long history of participating in the cultural landscape of the city by offering copious open mics and slam poetry sessions and even a place for university students to gather and study.
Alex Gillikin, Winning regular of nearly ten years, was deeply involved in the institution’s community involvement via the arts. Her mother spearheaded the Winning open-mic poetry nights and she participated in music shows through booking, planning and door work.
“I have a photo of myself as a baby faced 15-year-old holding hands with my first boyfriend. We had ridden the Rail Runner to a poetry night,” Gillikin said.
Since the closure of Winning, Jacobsen and his family have—little by little—moved equipment, furniture and other items.
Winning is in the Bricklight District off Central Avenue and right across from the University of New Mexico. Its location is sure to attract new business owners to fill its space, Jacobsen said.
But that isn’t the same, said Steven Hether. When he heard about the news, he was devastated.
“It was like a punch in the gut, and like hearing a really good friend is dying. Really, it was kind of like that,” Hether told KOB.
Currently, there are no plans to revive Winning Coffee, nor has there been anyone who has moved into the empty space.
Matthew Narvaiz is a reporter for NM News Port, he can be contacted on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.
Shelby Coen is a reporter for NM News Port, they can be contacted on Twitter @desert_youth.