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25 years on Clifton,
Cleveland--After a quarter of a century in business, a landmark in the Cleveland LGBT community has closed its doors for good.
Truffles, a café and bake shop serving hand-made pastries, is the latest business to close on a stretch of Clifton Boulevard well known as a gay neighborhood.
The coffee shop, which was purchased by Dan Sheppard nine years ago, faced heavy competition from a nearby Starbucks, although Truffles was, in Sheppard’s words, “a place of refuge for the gay community.”
Sheppard had worked in the café for years before buying it, and made all the dessert items in-house.
While the temptation was there to save money by cutting corners, lowering the quality of the fare, Sheppard could not bring himself to do it.
“I didn’t want to lower the quality, which I certainly could have,” he noted. “I couldn’t do that. There’s a Truffles standard.”
In addition to competition from the chain coffee shop two blocks away, in terms of pastries, Sheppard and Truffles not only had to compete against supermarkets, but also against big box stores.
“I can’t compete with Costco and Sam’s Club and things like that,” he said. “That was really the big thing, I just can’t compete with the bigger companies. It was an economic decision, and a painful one.”
“It’s the end of an era,” he continued. “Truffles was an icon and it’s over now.”
Another part of the equation was the changing face of the area. Many of the LGBT people who lived nearby have moved, either out of Cleveland entirely or to “up and coming” neighborhoods in Tremont, Ohio City and elsewhere.
“I believe the neighborhood is changing drastically,” Sheppard said. “We just don’t have the clientele that we once did in this neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s anybody’s fault, it’s just that things change, and life changes.”
Sheppard is now looking for a job in the baking industry, his specialty.
Other storefronts in the building near West 112th Street have also become vacant. Laws Leather, which was there for many years, first moved to West 29th Street and now operates mainly online. Castle’s Ice Cream lasted less than a year, while Metro Joe’s Café closed due to a fire. While redecorating afterwards, the owner fell ill and died, and Sean’s Place, a restaurant named in his honor, closed last month, leaving Plants Plus the only commercial tenant remaining.
Just two blocks away, however, Flower Child, an antique store specializing in mid-century American items, flourishes, as do the Tick Tock Tavern, It’s It Deli and City Place, as well as the Diner on Clifton and the gay Twist nightclub across the street. However, while the entire area has always had a certain queer cachet, none of those spots have been as iconic as Truffles.
For transplants to Cleveland, it was their first stop in town.
“It was mine,” Sheppard said, noting, “I worked here before I bought it. I’ve been associated with Truffles for many, many years.”