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Coffeehouse may stay open with new owners

NORCROSS - Instead of going out of business, the Northern Star Coffeehouse may soon be under new management.

The Norcross Downtown Development Authority signed a letter of intent late last week to acquire the popular coffee shop's assets and keep its doors open. Skip Nau, chairman of the Norcross DDA, said Monday he hopes to assign that letter of intent to a group of investors within the next several days.

Nau said the Norcross DDA stepped in and signed the agreement so the doors of the coffee shop would remain open while details of the acquisition are being worked out.

The coffeehouse's owner, Bill Luebben, had announced a couple of weeks ago the store would close this past Saturday.

On Monday, Luebben was still serving coffee and working on an agreement with a group looking to purchase the majority of the company. Luebben said he expects to maintain a small stake in the company and to serve as a consultant for a short time before backing away from the business.

Nau said he could not yet identify the name of the group looking to purchase the shop.

When word got out Northern Star would be closing, several groups and investors began trying to figure out a way to save the coffeehouse.

One of those groups, known as the Friends of Northern Star, started a Web site - www.savenorthernstar.com - to collect donations to keep the coffeehouse alive.

Dwayne Bassett, the local business owner who started the Web site, said it has raised roughly $5,500 for Northern Star in 10 days.

"The response from the community is why the doors are still open," Bassett said.

If new management takes over the coffeehouse, Bassett said the money raised will help to keep the coffee shop running while new ways of turning a profit are explored.

Luebben previously said the store was closing because of a lack of foot traffic and customers. He said the coffee shop's products are so inexpensive that a large quantity must be sold for the business to cover its overhead.

Nau said he thinks adding additional forms of revenue, such as an expanded menu and merchandise, could help keep the coffeehouse viable in the future.

But despite still unresolved issues about the shop's future prosperity, everyone involved seems pleased Northern Star has remained open.

"It's real encouraging that the community rose to the occasion," Nau said.