Popular coffee shop leaving 1515 Broadway in downtown following dispute

The view from 1515 Broadway café in downtown Detroit. Steve Neavling/MCM
The view from 1515 Broadway café in downtown Detroit. Steve Neavling/MCM

The popular downtown Detroit coffee shop inside 1515 Broadway is moving out Saturday following a long-brewing dispute between the owner and the operator of the café.

Dan Martinez, who has operated the independent café for about seven years, decided to pull the plug after he and owner Chris Jaszczak couldn’t come to terms over the coffee shop’s environment. The café, for example, was sometimes so cold that customers and baristas wore coats because the building didn’t have sufficient heat.

1515 Broadway_8845
1515 Broadway’s Chris Jaszczak.

What’s next depends on Jaszczak, the eccentric owner who lives on the upper floor and has operated a black-box theater in the building since the mid-1980s. Before the coffee shop opened, Jaszczak used the space for theater concessions.

“1515 Broadway isn’t going anywhere,” Jaszczak told me. “This was 1515 Broadway before the café and it will be 1515 Broadway after the café.”

Jaszczak said he hopes to reopen the coffee shop permanently in a few months, but it’s unclear how. Since 2011, Jaszczak has been in danger of losing the building for not paying his mortgage and was only able to make last-minute payments after a fundraiser was held. County records show the building is currently a year delinquent on taxes and is in the process of being foreclosed by Citibank.

But Jaszczak maintains the county records are wrong and that he made a mortgage payment this morning.

“My mortgage isn’t even with Citibank anymore,” Jaszczak said.

This comes at a time when the building’s value has taken off. The long-vacant Wurlitzer Building next door may soon be transformed into a trendy boutique hotel with retail space.

Earlier this week, we revealed that Dan Gilbert’s real estate team installed a surveillance camera on the rear of 1515 Broadway without permission.

Jaszczak said he’s been getting offers on the building but routinely turns them down.

When Jaszczak moved into the building in the mid-1980s, the retail space operated as a family art supply store that had been open since 1933.

“This is a special place,” Jaszczak said.

Note: Motor City Muckraker Publisher Abby Shah was a 1515 Broadway barista. 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Trexinmichigan

    So sad. He stayed and fought. He wasn’t a squatter. But if THEY want it, they’ll take it.

    • banmar

      True, but they’re not just taking it, he’s helping them to take it by not paying taxes.

  • Pamela Hairyhogan

    Dan Gilber, aka Moses is all seeing with his cameras.

  • banmar

    This is the guy who nearly got bricked in the head when stuff fell off the Wurlitzer a couple months back? He seems to lack a grip of any strength on how finance works. Sh*ttybank may not be his mortgage holder (but probably is) and is just the loan servicer, but no wonder Gilbert’s folks aren’t asking for permission to install their cameras — they’re going to snap up the building at a fraction of its market value at the tax foreclosure auction, though undoubtedly it will still need millions in renovations before it could be leasable.

    Bravo to the guy for trying to save a landmark while still providing an artistic outlet, but this has been too cold a winter to expect a tenant (and potential theatre patrons) to just “layer up” on the sweaters and get on about their business, especially if (and I don’t know if they do) the tenant has a lease that specifies that the landlord will provide heat. I don’t even know what kind of heat, natural gas, electric or oil heat, is prevalent in skyscrapers in downtown Detroit, but no matter what type of heat is involved, I can almost guarantee that there are huge arrears owed to suppliers, maybe a few rubber checks and a whole lot of promises to pay that weren’t honored.