Voice: Native comes back to open coffee shop

07/03/2008 12:01 AM

03/14/2015 10:31 AM

North Columbia business owner Shennice Cleckley gave a 12-year-old boy $5 on a Friday morning for a box of doughnuts to raise money for his church.

Cleckley, who owns Literary Sweets Cafe on North Main Street, turned her phone off in March and May because she couldn’t pay the bill.

But she bought the doughnuts anyway to support the community.

“I don’t have the $5, but he was too cute,” she said chuckling.

Cleckley worries about making ends meet, but she is determined to stay open.

Some residents say business owners like Cleckley who want the area to thrive can help revitalize North Columbia.

People opening businesses in the community are saying something, said Donnie Wright, a North Columbia resident who also works in the area. “They have a little faith in the community and want it to get better.”

Cleckley believes in the North Columbia community where she grew up and is living her dream by owning her own literary cafe.

“It’s a tough business — I’m so specialized,” Cleckley said. “But the community wants to keep me here. ... I want to be the neighborhood coffeehouse.”

Cleckley moved her shop from Rabon Street in Northeast Richland, where she was making a profit, to North Main Street because she sees the area as an undiscovered up-and-coming treasure.

She said the perception of North Columbia doesn’t fit with its reality.

“It’s no different than any other metropolitan city,” she said. “It’s very rare to have a large area without problems.”

Cleckley said she hasn’t had any problems with security or feeling safe since she moved her business to the area a year ago.

Literary Sweets Cafe is part of North Main Plaza, completed in 2003 by the Eau Claire Development Corporation, a publicly funded development company.

“The rent is affordable,” said Cleckley, who pays less than $1,000 a month to rent the 1,300-square-foot shop where she sells books, coffee, chocolates and other sweets. “The Eau Claire Corporation has done anything they can to help me prosper.”

She’s confident despite her financial troubles with the store.

“Economically it’s becoming a big strain, but I’m in it for the long haul,” she said. “I want people to say I’ve been here 20 years.”

Cleckley, her husband, LeBrian, and their three children are trying to move to the Eau Claire area from the Northeast.

“North Columbia has stability. It’s what a neighborhood is supposed to be,” she said. “I don’t know my neighbors in the Northeast. I come here and the neighbors talk to each other.”

Reach Riddle at (803) 771-8435.

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