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Mellelo's to close original store

Mellelo Coffee Roasters' original retail store at Sixth and Front streets in downtown Medford will soon end its 17-year-old run, says owner Sal Mellelo.

The coffee shop temporarily closed this week due to a staff shortage at its sister store on West Main Street, but the Sixth Street shop's dark windows foreshadow what will come.

"This store hasn't done well in years," Mellelo says. "I've just been attached to the store because it's where I started. I wish there were a million customers on that corner, but there's not. It's a business decision."

Economic factors, including the recession and migration of businesses to other parts of town, caused the shop's customers to slowly pour away.

Mellelo says he hasn't decided on an exact date to draw the curtains on the original store. He said the shop is expected to close before the lease is up in August 2011 but that he would honor the lease agreement.

"That's too bad," says Shonda Bursk, a stylist at Cielo salon on Sixth.

Bursk says she and her colleagues used to go to the Sixth Street Mellelo's shop at least once a week and more frequently during the winter months. "We went a ton in the winter to get tea or coffee," she says. "It won't be as convenient to walk all the way through to Main Street."

The salon opened its own bistro for staff and customers about two weeks ago, she says, so coffee trips may be reduced this year.

The Sixth Street store debuted in 1993 as an expansion of Mellelo's original operation out of a cart, which began in 1992 at the intersection of Holly and West Main streets. The coffee cart was a novelty in the days before coffee shops became a growth industry in the Northwest.

Since then, Mellelo Coffee Roasters has become a Medford chain. There is now a wholesale office in Central Point and two other Medford retail locations, one at 229 W. Main St. and the other at 3651 Lear Way. Wholesale business accounts for about 75 percent of profits, while retail brings in about 25 percent, Mellelo says.

The customer base at Sixth and Front has shrunk with the departure of some larger employers, including BlueCross BlueShield employees who were relocated to Highway 62 a couple of years ago, he says.

At the West Main Mellelo's shop Thursday morning, a barista worked alone to whip up batches of mixed coffee drinks for a line of customers that extended to the door. Staff who worked at the Sixth Street location have been filling in at West Main for the time being. Mellelo says he plans to hire two more baristas soon.

The Sixth Street location has had reduced hours for some time. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., while the location on West Main stays open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.