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Former Tea Lounge Regular Taps Investors to Fund Reboot of Beloved Cafe

 Steven Stromer wants to create a community center, coworking space and more in the Union Street space.
Former Tea Lounge Regular Taps Investors to Fund Reboot of Beloved Cafe
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PARK SLOPE — An ex-software engineer who wants to relaunch the Tea Lounge space as a spot where kids will take science classes, adults will sip cocktails and watch live music, and entrepreneurs will launch businesses is hunting for investors to make his grand vision a reality.

Steven Stromer is asking Park Slope residents for $175,000 to $200,000 to reboot the sprawling Tea Lounge space into a combination cafe, community center and coworking space called The Park Slope Meeting House.

But the clock is ticking on Stromer's ambitious proposal.

If he doesn't collect $40,500 by April 1 for a deposit and first month's rent on the space, it will probably be rented to another tenant, most likely a national chain, Stromer said.

Landlord Harold Dixon has said he likes Stromer's idea, and has agreed to let him have first dibs on the space. But a member of the Dixon family told DNAinfo New York on Tuesday that the family is eager to move a tenant — any tenant — into 837 Union St., which has been empty since the beloved cafe closed in December.

"I have a few different people that want it," said a Dixon family member who didn't want to be identified. "We have bills to pay, so we want it to be filled. I just want to see something go into the space. Time is definitely of the essence."

In his quest for cash, Stromer has left no stone unturned — even leaving a letter on the doorstep of actor and Park Slope resident Steve Buscemi. With $175,000 to $200,000 in hand, Stromer says he's confident he can open The Park Slope Meeting House and turn it into a viable business in a matter of weeks.

Stromer — a Tea Lounge regular who spent so much time there that a drink was named after his son —  has shelled out about $70,000 of his own money on his idea. He's hired a general manager, chef and programming director and he's lined up architects to renovate the space into brighter, sleeker version of the Tea Lounge with a separate seating and play area for kids.

Stromer doesn't want to use an online fundraising tool such as Kickstarter because those sites take a cut of the money, and because he wants locals to back his dream, he said.

"The most respectful thing to do is to first approach the neighborhood and the people who will want to have a voice in this place down the road," Stromer said of his investment strategy.

Stromer gathered a who's who of Park Slope in a Garfield Place brownstone last week to pitch his business plan, which he created with Eric Langa, a former Tea Lounge bartender.

The two have spent the past four months interviewing Park Slope business owners, observing foot traffic patterns at neighborhood coffee shops, and poring over spreadsheets to analyze costs and revenue projections.

Their verdict: selling coffee won't pay the rent anymore in Park Slope, but a multi-faceted venue that offers quality food, coworking and community events can thrive.

“This is not a coffee shop,” Stromer said of The Park Slope Meeting House. "This is a place where you can come and we want you to camp."

The crowd of potential supporters at the recent meeting included Susan Fox, founder of the influential online community Park Slope Parents, and the heads of the Park Slope Civic Council. The local group Park Slope Neighbors organized the meeting.

Stromer outlined a highly detailed vision during the two-hour session, passing out color brochures and pamphlets inviting people to "join in founding a Park Slope institution."

Stromer described the Park Slope Meeting House as a place where "you can walk in, you can buy a book on knitting, you can buy knitting supplies, you can sit down and you can knit, and as it happens there will be a knitting class twice a month where you can go to improve your skills."

But that's just one facet of his elaborate concept.

The Park Slope Meeting House would also offer a multicultural food and cocktail menu with dishes such as Mexican banh mi, bibimbap, and a customizable salad with 10,000 possible ingredient combinations. Activities could include parent and child leathercrafting classes, singles nights, chess clubs and theater performances.

The Park Slope Meeting House would be open to everyone from babies to empty nesters, but would also include a membership program. Members would get discounts on food, retail items and printing services, among other perks. Individual monthly memberships would be $110; parent memberships would be around $150 a month and would include pre-packed kids' lunches and tickets to children's events.

Donors who contribute $50,000 to Stromer's fundraising effort will get on-demand delivery of espresso drinks to their door and a three-year "workspace pro" membership that comes with guaranteed seating every day, 3-D printing services, tech support, and other benefits.

Fox said she was impressed by Stromer's plans and she posted a letter introducing the idea on the Park Slope Parents email list. "I'd love to see the Park Slope Meeting House become a great place for parents in the neighborhood to meet and bond," she told DNAinfo New York.