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2/16/2012 9:56:00 PM
Prescott's Music Café owner contemplates closing up shop
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Kathleen Cuvelier, owner of The Music Café on Gurley Street in Prescott, is trying to find a balance between owning and running a restaurant and her desire to perform.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Kathleen Cuvelier, owner of The Music Café on Gurley Street in Prescott, is trying to find a balance between owning and running a restaurant and her desire to perform.
Nicholas DeMarino

"You've got to be open for the summer. That's the time to be open."

Kathleen Cuvelier nodded agreement to a fellow store owner on Gurley Street Wednesday morning in Prescott and entered the Music Café.

The sign on the door - "The Music Café is closed indefinitely" - had been up for a week, but Cuvelier hoped to replace it that morning.

Lights off, the window-shop stage and sleek piano dominated the restaurant and music venue.

Lights on, a handful of tables and chairs populated it with empty, Platonic forms.

"I'm trying to stay optimistic," said Cuvelier, who opened the shop with her husband, Efren Puig, on Labor Day last year. "We just wanted a place to perform, but now there's everything else."

That whim became a reality, but likewise, entailed real-world details that could close the doors for good.

An idea

108 W. Gurley St. used to be a crepe shop, or, at least it was when Cuvelier and Puig visited Prescott during the latter 2000s.

After semi-retiring to Prescott in August 2010, the couple wanted to establish their own venue to perform and leased the space.

Cuvelier and Puig are both accomplished opera singers, he a tenor, she a soprano.

"He's really the one you should be writing about," Cuvelier insisted, pointing out a lineup of performance posters lining the walls of the Music Café. "Neither of us want to sing all the time, but we figured once a week would be nice."

The location was long-established and, as such, required quite a few renovations, she said.

Still, Cuvelier had facilitated Park and Fifth avenue renovations and decided to give it a go. She leveraged her cooking skills against her 15 years at Columbia Artists Management in New York City to pull together a combination restaurant and entertainment venue.

"It's something different, not necessarily for the younger crowd," Cuvelier said. "I want to bring established musicians in - classical, jazz and a wide variety of music here, without amplification, with natural acoustics."

After financial feats that ended in maxed credit cards and a reverse mortgage, the Music Café opened, "but just barely," on Labor Day.

A reality

Attendance at the Music Café has varied dramatically.

"There were nights it would look like we would only have two or three reservations and 34 showed up," Culvier said. "That caught us by surprise."

Just as surprising, and much more harmful, were nights when only two or three people showed up.

Cuvelier halved the part-time staff of about 14 and revamped the hours and menu. Resources and attendance still wavered and the Music Café closed up indefinitely in early February.

Culvier's current lease runs out in May, but she plans to try a few more ideas first.

They may reduce hours; they may stop serving lunch; they may drop the door fee and raise food prices; they may open the doors only for concerts.

"I don't know the answer yet," Cuvelier said. "I'm hoping someone wants to come in and partner with us to do the restaurant side."

For right now, she's moving forward with all of the concerts posted on the shop's website, www.themusiccafenaz.com. A handful more are pending.

After Saturday's show, Cuvelier plans to try a curtailed affair - dinner and shows Wednesday through Saturday next week and the week after that.

"I don't know about regular hours at this point," Cuvelier said, adding, "There's a distinction between what people think will make it work and what will make it work."

At his point, she said, she'd rather just sing.

"Don't get me wrong, I've got the energy for this," she said, "but it's not why I wanted to do it."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Article comment by: charles dorsey

We are regulars, love the music and he atmosphere. Hope you manage a plan to keep it going. Thank you

Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Article comment by: Cheryle Sieck

Hello . thinking about relocating to prescott from Phoenix, If you decide to keep rest. open
and looking for manager or rest . Help please feel free to email. Sounds like a great place!!!!I I do have rest Expierance.

Posted: Monday, February 20, 2012
Article comment by: avid sleeper

I'd never even heard of this place until a couple days ago. Maybe they need to advertise their existence a bit more? This article might help, but not everyone reads the paper.

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