You can’t be mad at pancakes. That was one realization made this past Sunday during an “urgent” meeting held at the Someday Café in Somerville’s Davis Square. An estimated 150 sweat-sticky people stuffed themselves into the 13-year-old caffeine-jacked hangout to discuss the café’s future with Peter Creyf (a/k/a Mr. Crêpe), the Belgian owner of a crêpe restaurant slated to supplant the Someday in September.
SOMEDAY SOON: The café back in 1995.
The Someday has been around since 1993, long before Davis Square ever seemed like it’d be a prosperous milieu with a giant lit-up sports ticker or a velvet-roped Diva Lounge. “We were here from the very beginning, when there were rodents — I mean a lot of rodents,” recalls barista Willie Carpenter, who’s been employed by the Someday since it first opened. For more than a decade, the Someday has been the scruffy Somerville outpost for political activists and labret-pierced punks, bespectacled note-scribblers and pre-test-cramming grad students — endearingly famous for its tattered carpets, trash-pile furniture, and coffee-nursing smoker battalion clustered outside on the street corner. It’s the sort of place where, if you’re locked out of your apartment without a cell phone, the staff will let you borrow the house phone to make a call. (Trust me, I know.)
But not for much longer. Gus Rancatore, the Toscanini’s proprietor who rescued the Someday once before when he bought the business about four years ago, didn’t renew the September lease. Rancatore says the paperwork got lost in the mail and that the landlord of the building — Mel Fraiman, who also owns the Somerville Theatre and the Arlington Capital Theatre — didn’t bother to issue a reminder about its pending expiration. Meanwhile, Peter Creyf began negotiating with Fraiman to rent the space for Mr. Crêpe, Creyf’s French-pancake-making business previously located on Holland Street. Creyf ended up signing a lease — and the Someday has to be out at the end of August.
And that’s where things stood on Sunday. But Creyf had willingly offered to talk about alternatives with the community — in his words, “sticking my neck out more than I even should” — especially since two Someday employees, Tanya Hahnel and Danielle Sullivan, had quickly drawn up a six-page business plan about how to keep the Someday alive. So, with Somerville mayor Joseph Curtatone present, Ward Six alderman Rebekah Gewirtz moderating, and photocopies of a Zippy cartoon in which the Someday gets name-checked strewn about, Creyf explained that due to the deadlines imposed by another business he owns, the chances that the Someday would remain in this space were “very small.” But he said that if he could find another spot nearby, he’d be willing to sign over the lease to a staff co-op.
Mo Lotman, Someday customer and artistic director of the improv troupe Kitsch in Sync, presented Creyf with 1300 signatures — collected in four days — supporting the Someday’s survival. Many people suggested that since Mr. Crêpe had great pancakes and nobody loved the Someday for its food, why couldn’t they merge? Creyf likened business ventures to marriage and answered bluntly, “Danielle and Tanya look like great people, but I don’t know them.” There was a consensus that pancakes weren’t the enemy and that the Someday had lately suffered from mismanagement. (Rancatore wasn’t there, but it was an uncontested assumption that the Someday had recently been operating at a loss.) But nearly everybody wanted to see the Someday stay.
Curtatone and Gewirtz pledged to start making phone calls, perhaps looking into an empty storefront down the road where the old Buck a Book used to be; Creyf promised to wait seven to 10 days to see if they could find him another space. Supporters pleaded with Creyf. “If you can make this work,” a retired businessman told him, “you’ve got thousands of built-in customers ready to hug you and eat all your stuff.”