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Can The Buzz be saved?

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

What started out as a “love fest” for Deb Ferguson, owner of The Buzz, didn’t end up that way, with two creditors asking for an accounting of past loans.

 

Ferguson had called a meeting at The Buzz to brainstorm ideas to save her financially troubled coffee shop, which also serves as one of Sequim’s most popular gathering spots.

 

Ferguson closed the shop this week, reopening it only for the get-together.

 

After being pressed for details, Ferguson said she needs to come up with more than $200,000 within the next few weeks to avoid foreclosure and a possible sale of the building by creditors.

 

She told the crowd she had considered a number of possibilities, including turning the business into a cooperative enterprise or seeking a wine and beer license.

 

She also said she has been struggling a long time and said the economy was largely to blame.

 

Peter Cullinane, who identified himself as a successful businessman, asked Ferguson, “How did it come to this point?”

 

Ferguson responded, “I’m completely responsible.”

 

She said she had reduced the payroll and worked with vendors to reduce her costs.

 

Dave McInnes noted that given the size of the debt, most of the ideas to raise revenues were “just a crumb.”

 

A legal notice published in the Peninsula Daily News on Wednesday, April 4, says Ferguson owes $58,445,44 in “payments and late charges” and states further that in addition to “amount in arrears above” Ferguson “may be obligated to pay” an additional $63,902.12 “to reinstate the Deed of Trust.”

The principal debt is $137,542.59.

 

Unless Ferguson can come up with the money soon, the property at 128 N. Sequim Ave. will be subject to a trustee’s sale on May 4.

 

The wording in the legal advertisement is inconsistent, saying the past due amount must be paid “by April 30, 2012 (11 days before the sale date), to cause a discontinuance of the sale.”

 

Most in the crowd agreed that meant the payment must be made by April 18.

More debt considered

While many of those who spoke up were supportive, noting The Buzz has long provided a venue for musicians and meetings, some were critical.

 

Cullinane eventually pointed out that he had already invested in the business. He asked Ferguson, “What happened to the $10,000 I gave you a year ago? There doesn’t seem to be any kind of accountability. I am angry about that,” he told Ferguson.

 

When several people in the crowd protested, saying it was an inappropriate comment, Cullinane grew angrier.

 

Before leaving, he announced, “I’m taking legal action. I didn’t want to do this, but this is crap.”

 

Joan J. Woods, who also attended the event, told those in attendance she had loaned Ferguson $67,000 “to keep this business afloat.”

 

“I don’t know where that money was spent,” she said. “You have never accounted for that money,” she told Ferguson.

 

“You never asked me for an accounting,” Ferguson said.

 

Woods later said she had considered Ferguson the best friend she’d ever had.

 

“I couldn’t bear to see her in such pain,” Woods said.

 

She said the $67,000 constituted half of her life savings.

 

She added that she spoke up at the meeting primarily to ensure others didn’t make the same mistake she made.

 


Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

 

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