A relatively small but well-placed "For Lease" sign has caused quite a stir over the past week in downtown Mill Valley, with many longtime patrons of the left wondering if they'd soon be forced to look elsewhere for the bakery's tasty Jesuite pastries.
The sign, posted above the for a 2,200-square-foot restaurant space, left many passers-by, including nearly a dozen who called or emailed Mill Valley Patch inquiring about it, assuming it was for Champagne's space, which the San Marcos, Calif.-based chain has occupied for nearly 10 years.
It was - sort of.
"We need to explore all of our options for that space," said Christine Lum, the property manager reached when calling the number on the sign. "We're looking at finding the best use of the space."
But Morell Marean, CEO of Champagne, said his company is committed to working with the property owner and staying in Mill Valley beyond June 2012, when its current lease at 41 Throckmorton Ave. ends.
"We're committed to working with the landlords and we really want to reinvigorate our business in Mill Valley," said Marean, who took the helm of the company in March. "The people of Mill Valley expect and deserve high quality and we're investing tens of thousands of dollars to give them that quality."
That means a new paint job, an overhaul of the menu and a completely new coffee supplier through a partnership with Martin Diedrich, considered a pioneer of the coffeehouse phenomenon in the 1990s, Marean said.
"When I took over the company, I saw a tremendous opportunity to upgrade the quality of our offering, and that's what we're doing," Marean said, noting that he eventually hopes to expand Champagne in Marin beyond its locations in Mill Valley and Corte Madera.
"This is the first two of many more stores we hope to have in the Bay Area," he said. "The first step is reinvigoratig the business in these two sites."
Marean declined to comment on any negotiations with the landlord and what role the posting of the "For Lease" sign played in those negotiations. Lum said she had received a number of calls from interested potential tenants for the space.