A Lesson to Be Learned:

A Tribute to Café de Troit

Eric C. Novack



On Friday October 21, 2005 at four o'clock in the afternoon Café de Troit closed its doors for the last time. For over two and a half years the owners of the Café, Lee and Patrick Padgett, not only offered a strong and smooth distinctively Detroit flavored coffee with service that could only be described as world class, but their café also served as a focal point for Detroit artists of all kinds to exhibit their work. Despite having all this going for them, the trials and tribulations of running a business in the city proved too much for Café de Troit to bear.

Located at 1260 Library Street right across from the Skillman Library and within spitting distance of Campus Martius, Café de Troit had to endure constant customer deterrents from construction in the surrounding area to an unfriendly city government bureaucracy. The building that the Café inhabited had 14 building code violations that were never addressed by the landlord Frank Tedford. When I asked Lee Padgett what her worst memory pertaining to the Café was, she said "When I was stricken with double pneumonia and my husband Patrick called to tell me that the front of the café had fallen off onto our car."

And when I asked Lee what her favorite memory was, she smiled and said, "The sincere kindness from all the patrons of the café when they found out we were closing our doors." This was quite apparent when I went to interview Lee on the day after closing the Café. A contingent of people was helping her and Patrick dismantle the shelves, coolers, and counters. This crew of people wasn't looking to make an extra buck, they were fellow Detroiters just hoping to help out and say goodbye to a good friend. I was touched by this gesture, but I was also troubled by it as well. Why do people only recognize something when it is dying or already dead? Why are we so disinterested in something while it lives and breathes and has something to offer other then the fond memories? If maybe we all just spent a little more time catching up with each other or meeting someone new over a caramel latte, would Café de Troit still be open?

I don't know.

What I do know is that there is a lesson to be learned somewhere in between the lines of this story. I'll let you the reader, be the one to determine what that lesson might be. As for me, I found that I am a little ashamed of myself. Because the first story I happen to take the time and write about Café de Troit is the last story that will be ever written.

I'd like to thank Lee and Patrick for opening my eyes to a little bit of the artistic beauty that Detroit has to offer and for giving this city something it sorely needs, a little grace. — Eric C. Novack

From the Editor:

Since the earliest days of thedetroiter.com we've had a special fondness for Lee and the crew behind Café de Troit. Way back in April of 2003, contributor Scott Dillon profiled the Café just before it opened (along with Camillian Café and Small Plates.)

A year later we held our first thedetroiter.com event in the Café, a lively poetry reading that was not only "standing room only," but eager listeners hung out in the hallway just to catch what they could. (For details see here and here.)

As Eric mentioned, the Café's walls were a great place to discover many local artists and get better acquainted with others whose work I'd seen before. This includes Jack Johnson (who even opened his own gallery in the basement below the café, called Musee Detroit), Victor Pytko(here and here), Joan Painter Jones, Leah Keller-Transburg, Charles Gibson, and Donald Anderson. Many others come to mind that I couldn't write about for scheduling reasons but appreciated seeing their work every time I passed through. And Lee herself got in the game of art, experimenting with techniques and mediums and developing her own style. All in all this was a healthy atmosphere for artists to show that will be missed.

It too has served as an unofficial meeting place for thedetroiter.com. From regular times to catch up with lit editor Eric to a one time full staff meeting, we've always felt a part of the Café de Troit family. And while it's hard to say goodbye, we wish the Padgett's the best on their next adventure, and to all of those who filled our hot chocolate mugs (capped off with the coolest lids on earth!) best in wherever you're headed next.

Thanks for everything,
Nick Sousanis



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