DENVER — Kabod Coffee, a Denver-based coffee and breakfast business opened by an Ethiopian-American woman who immigrated as a teenager, has been evicted from its original location in north Denver.
Owner Muluye Hailemariam said this is despite never missing a rent payment and never causing any trouble at the Northfield Commons shopping center.
Hailemariam’s shop furniture and equipment are now in storage, as she prepares for legal battles and tries to make sense of what might come next for her dream.
“I grew up in the birthplace of coffee,” Hailemariam said of her childhood in Ethiopia. “Coffee is in my blood. And I enjoy it.”
Hailemariam came to America as a teenager with only $38 to her name, but with a strong belief in the promise and opportunity of her new home. In 2019, she opened the first location of Kabod Coffee off Northfield Boulevard in Denver, and quickly built a loyal fanbase — so loyal, in fact, that several customers continued to slip money under the shop door to support her even when it was completely shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Hailemariam, she signed a ten year lease in 2019, which included a clause promising her shop would be the only coffee and breakfast place at Northfield Commons. This was important to her survival as a small business going up against large national coffee chains, she said. However, after her lease was signed and shop opened, a new management company — 1046 Muras Properties, LP — bought the center. Hailemariam said her new management began pressuring her to sign a new lease without the competitors clause. She declined.
At the end of January 2022, Kabod’s small workforce was hit with several COVID-19 diagnoses, and Hailemariam made the decision to temporarily close. The temporary closure was held as a violation of her lease, and the management company evicted Hailemariam.
“They didn’t see my side,” an emotional Hailemariam said. “This is my life. I have two boys. [This is] their future, their college money.”
Because she was evicted from the space, Hailemariam is expected to continue paying rent until the empty space is filled by a new business. She has no idea when that might be — or, when she may be able to reopen her shop at a new location. Hailemariam is fighting in court to be released from the rent expectation, but according to her attorney, the next hearing date has not been set.
We reached out to an attorney representing 1046 Muras Properties through phone and email Thursday, but have not heard back.
“It’s my life, my investment,” said Hailemariam, holding back tears. “I worked hard. Why’d they do this? They can do other people like that? Why me? It’s painful.”