Lillie’s Coffee Bar, a staple in Neptune Beach, will close at the end of the month.
Debbie Criman opened Lillie’s with her sister a little over five years ago. Criman says it was always a dream of theirs. But negotiations with their landlord recently broke down.
“It’s not a matter of money. It’s not a matter of [starting] a petition,” Criman said. “It wasn’t like one party didn’t want it and the other party did. Unfortunately if it was that, it would be an easy fix if it was something like that, but it wasn’t.”
She says breaking the news to her 28 longtime employees was hard.
Angela Hawley has worked at Lillie’s since it opened. On Thursday, she was steeping an iced honey green tea.
”[It’s] heartbreaking,” Hawley said. “You know, they’re such wonderful people and it just — it’s family. It’s like, I think we’re still in shock. We just want to spend the next two weeks happy. That’s our goal.”
But Criman says the response from customers is flooring. As of Thursday afternoon a Facebook post announcing the shop’s closure had around 500 comments.
“Surprise, shock, sadness,” were some of the emotions from customers, Criman said. “'You can’t do this. I can’t believe you’re not going to be here for us.'”
Rachel Keller was studying in the corner Thursday afternoon.
“Probably Lillie’s is one of my favorite places in Jacksonville,” Keller said. “I just found out today that they were closing am I’m really sad. I just can’t believe it.”
She says it dawned on her that she doesn’t know where she’ll go to study after Lillie’s closes.
Chris Chin and her husband were sitting a few tables down from Keller.
“We like the jazz,” Chin said. "It’s the only place that consistently has jazz performances.”
She says the musicians Lillie’s books in their outdoor courtyard is a community asset.
Outside was where regular customer Allen Hall was sitting with his wife Thursday afternoon. He says he goes to Lillie’s every day.
“Sometimes twice a day,” Hall said. “Usually in the mornings and a lot of times at lunch, sometimes even in the afternoon so it could be even three times a day.”
He says Lillie’s is a special place to Beaches locals.
“It’s a big loss for the community, and we wish there was something we could do to help make it not happen,” Hall said. “This is more than a business, it’s really like family.”
Lillie’s is set to close Oct. 31. Criman says she hasn’t thought about opening in another location yet.
“This was kind of our spot, our home, our neighborhood,” Criman said. “This is where we wanted to be."
Calls to Lillies’ landlord were not immediately returned.