Those who have been keeping up with the openings and closings of Four Winds Cafe may have noticed that the aforementioned Oct. 25 opening of SaraFresh Kitchen never occurred. The day before the official grand opening on Oct. 24, The Office of Communications and Marketing notified the community of a postponement, stating, “A new date will be announced at a later time.” A Catalyst reporter received a message on Oct. 27 from a student close to Lynn Morris, owner and founder of SaraFresh, indicating that she wouldn’t be opening her doors at all, and instead was backing out before signing the contract.
The Catalyst reached out to Morris to understand the events leading up to her decision to postpone, and ultimately cancel, the Oct. 25 opening.
“As a business owner I was walking through the normal steps of opening a space,” Morris said. “I’m required to have a permit, I’m required to have insurance, [there’s] different things as a business owner. I was waiting on some things, equipment was arriving, so things were moving forward and the only thing I didn’t have at that time was an agreement with the school. We have to enter into a contract.
“On [Oct.] 20, at the end of the work day, I got the first draft of the contract between me and the school,” Morris continued. “When I saw it, it was quite lengthy and it concerned me.”
This contract, Morris explained, was 20 pages long. She would have to hire a lawyer to help her properly discern the contents of the contract. If any negotiations were necessary, the process would be even longer, with the possibility of it drawing out until after her scheduled opening date just five days later.
Morris’ biggest concern with the contract was the amount of liability she would have to bear. “I’ll just say there was a lot of stuff about insurance on there and that made me a little nervous because that meant I was going to have a lot of liability but I didn’t have control over the space. It’s like saying ‘we’re going to charge you for insurance but we’re going to keep the keys. Whoever can come in when you’re not here, and if something goes wrong, it’s on you.’”
This was not the straw that broke the camel’s back, however. Morris said she believed that if she had followed through with contract negotiations, New College would likely honor her requests. “They really wanted me to stay, they wanted to work with me. They weren’t paying me to be there, though It’s all on me to make the money, to pay [employees] and to hope people come.”
“I do want to say, the college hasn’t done anything wrong,” Morris stated. “I think they’re just the nicest people. There were a few things along the way that sort of had me a little bit nervous. One of them was certainly the temperature of the [political] climate over there. I’ve been in business for 11 years and I’ve never had anybody start looking into my information and messaging me privately and saying less than nice things to me. It triggered me. A lot. Because I’m a human being, honestly, that’s all.”
This online interaction Morris alluded to came after an Instagram post by the official New College of Florida account depicting a soft opening of Four Winds during a Preview Day event on Oct. 14. Morris detailed how many people angrily commented under the post, likely about the recent political strife on campus. Her biggest concerns stemmed from private messages she received through her business Facebook Messenger.
“I started getting all these people from like New York [messaging me], and I’ve never seen anything like it over 11 years,” Morris described. “That was hard but I’m going to say, everything was about 20 percent. It was just 20 percent of the cumulative [issues]. The contract was 20 percent, the social media was 20 percent, and the uncertainty about the reception from the students.”
Morris followed up the sentiment of cumulative issues with an explanation of what businesses call their “break even number” or, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), when the “total cost and total revenue are equal, meaning there is no loss or gain.”
“When I did all those numbers, the number was higher than I had heard,” Morris said. “You should be able to do this much in sales but my break even number was higher than that number. So that had me concerned. I gave them [New College] a different break even number early on, then it changed. That’s on me.”
Morris described a conversation she had with a friend and owner of the now-closed restaurant, The Overton, where she learned of the fine details she might have missed in her early calculations. “I crunched the numbers and was like ‘oh no.’”
“As somebody who has really built my business from hard work and seven years at the farmers market, the food truck, being a single mom. I don’t know. It just concerned me,” Morris stated. “You can see the sort of five pillars of fear for me.”
Throughout the in-person interview with the Catalyst, Morris greeted various customers, neighbors and friends with a huge smile. The day after the interview was going to be big for Morris and SaraFresh, as a new restaurant was opening in The Overton’s previous home, a moment Morris hopes will boost business and traffic in the courtyard of restaurants.
“I would say my word for the end of the year going into next year is pivot,” Morris said. “Word of the year, you should have one every year. I’ve had momentum, fortitude, so now it’s pivot.
“I’m taking this artificial intelligence (AI) course in advertising marketing, and so I’m applying what I learn to my business,” Morris continued. “I’m excited to try those new things and learn something new.”