One of the city's most iconic buildings is losing a tenant but not losing its validity.
Attorney Peter Schaffer, who in 1994 led a group of fellow attorneys in opening The Grateful Bean in the historic Kaiser's Ice Cream building, 1039 N Walker Ave., said Thursday the restaurant will close July 31.
"It's nothing dramatic," Schaffer said, "Expenses are too high in relation to income."
The Grateful Bean sprouted from a nonprofit project Schaffer and his collaborators formed in 1992 to allow the marginally employed a chance to acquire skills to prepare them for the work force. The company sold beans and bean-related food items like soup.
"We had people right out of prison, people still in prison, homeless people, we even had a 'defrocked' bank president work here," Schaffer said.
"The program was six months long and employees rotated through each process so they could learn as much as possible. We paid $6 an hour and held back $1.25 an hour, which we saved on their behalf and turned over to them when they graduated from the program," he said. "When you hand a person who's never really had a job a lump sum of $900, it's just incredible to see the reaction."
The native New Yorker said when the project shifted from the beans to the cafe, people who came through the program wanted to stay in a particular position, creating an unforeseen quandary.
"We wanted to give people a new lease, not to be confused with leash, on life," Schaffer said.
Schaffer said The Grateful Bean is closing but Kaiser's Ice Cream will live on.
"I'm in negotiation with another person about a new concept in the building," he said. "But the Grateful Bean is definitely closing."
Schaffer said he wasn't sure if this was the end of the The Bean Project, but he hoped there would be a way to continue it because of its importance to the community.
"I have a lot of mixed feelings about closing the Bean," he said. "When you give your heart and soul to something for 18 years, it's hard to walk away, but nothing is permanent."
Schaffer said the success of the project is not only in the number of people it put back into the work force but also how it helped the revitalization of Midtown.
"The transformation has been phenomenal," he said. "Midtown was a blighted area in the early '90s. The end of the Bean isn't the end of progress, it's going to be better for the Kaiser's tradition, better for Midtown and better for Oklahoma City."
"I have a lot of mixed feelings about closing the Bean. When you give your heart and soul to something for 18 years, it's hard to walk away, but nothing is permanent."
Attorney Peter Schaffer
The Grateful Bean
Hours: The Grateful Bean, 1039 N Walker Ave., will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. through July 31.