MARK'S CAFÉ IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED

Dear Customers, Friends, and Tempe Community,

It is with tremendous sadness and heavy hearts that we announce that effective today March 24th, 2020, we have had to make the difficult decision to cease operations completely, including the free meals we were planning on giving away starting tomorrow. This decision was not made lightly, and every option was considered before we came to this terrible conclusion.

Like many other middle class American families, we are saddled with debt. The café has debt as well, and these combined are insurmountable. Sales starting falling off precipitously after the Maricopa County Health Department forced us to stop allowing customers use the restroom. That backlash was felt far and wide, with people posting negative comments on social media and even people coming in to eat who walked out in anger when they realized we have no public restroom. Mark and I funneled in almost $30,000 of our own money since then to keep us operating. That money was intended for our kids' college educations.

Your donations have shown us that God is good and works through amazing people, and we intended to use that money to continue what we were doing. Mark had been prepared to cook meals that we could give away for free for as long as we could. But the sad reality is that he now has to find a job to help support our family. Soon. The café is still several months behind in sales tax reports, payroll tax expenses, and has a $50,000 line of credit. We talked to our broker who we bought the café from 17 years ago (therestaurantbrokers.com), and Ruly was honest and told us we would not be able to sell the business. He told us what we already feared and suspected: the best thing to do is to walk away rather than continuing to deplete our personal resources. I had already closed my 401K and withdrew money from my small retirement account. We still are locked into a lease at the café. We personally have a large mortgage, lines of credit debt, and student loans both for our oldest son and for my nursing school degree from 8 years ago. Our oldest son is only 1 year into college, and we still have 2 teenagers who have to go to college, which is not optional. They will go, and we will find a way to make that happen.

Please know that your support during this time has been nothing short of a miracle. Our Facebook page exploded with well wishes and prayers, and what we hope is that large corporations will follow suit as they have the power and the money to make a difference. We considered it an honor to serve you, and felt blessed beyond measure that you supported us right back when we served our community for 3 days with free meals, prayers, and love without judgement. We are hoping that those who can afford to give, do. Please spread the word, and encourage large companies to do so. #MarksChallenge.

Please know that if you made a check donation, it will be mailed back to you. If you deposited cash, we will be donating that to needy non-profits so they can carry on doing good work, and I will post a picture of the receipt once that is done. We are hearing about people who are unselfishly giving to others during this time, and it has restored our faith in humanity. We are living in scary, unprecedented times, and we will continue to pray for mankind as the virus continues to spread throughout the world.

I have returned to my job as a hospice nurse with Aviant Hospice, which I am very grateful to have. On our first day, they donated $500 which allowed us to give 2 more days of free food! Through my job, our family is able to have health insurance benefits, for which we are incredibly thankful. Hospice is my calling, and that seed was planted almost 22 years ago when my first husband died in my arms after battling cancer. I feel blessed that I can serve in this way, and am forever grateful for the support and love my work family has shown me during this time.

We are not alone in our struggles. Millions of small businesses are going to be forced to close and society as we know it will forever change when this is over, with reverberations felt for many years to come. But the most important thing is that we have each other. Our family bonded like never before during time, and we were able to demonstrate to our children what it means to have faith knowing God has a plan, to live life one day at a time, and to give, as there are always people worse off then you.

I could tell you so many stories about the peoples who came through for food, stories that broke our hearts: struggling to survive day to day, not having a place to live, living with terminal illness. Some people pulled over in the parking lot and ate it right there as they had not eaten in days. One of the most powerful for me was when a couple came through in a very old car that it looked like they lived in. The gentlemen tried to hand me some spare change and he said that was all they had. I politely refused, telling him "Sir, you need that more than me. Please keep it." As I walked away from the car I cried.

We would not be here without you, and these past 17 years have been nothing short of incredible, including the community sponsored makeover that happened in 2011. We hope that our presence in Tempe made a difference, and we will forever hold those memories near and dear to our hearts.

Two of our most important allies in the business contributed greatly to our success: Our PR gal Morgan Vanderwall (vanderwallpr.com), has worked tirelessly without charging us for many years. Morgan, we will always love you. Keith Farnham (farnhamdesign.com), who created our logo, has also been a longtime friend and partner and also did a lot of work for us for free. Keith, we love you and your family. Community, if you can, please support their small businesses as they are also struggling.

We trust that God will find a way for our world to overcome this, and we will be stronger for it. We will continue to pray for those who are infected and the millions more that will be infected before we get this virus under control. We are so thankful that we have our health, and this time spent together as a family has been invaluable. We have seen God's light and love shine through our children, and we as parents could not be more proud.

God puts people in our lives for a reason and a season. We are so grateful that He sent all of you to us for all these years. We hope that we have made a small difference. Please keep spreading the word, sharing the love, and continue to be a shining example of what is good in this world. With an outpouring of love and gratitude, we say goodbye. God bless you all! The Vojtek Family xxoo