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Sign Un-Corks Champagne Dustup

Company CEO says he's committed to keeping longtime restaurant in Mill Valley and plans to implement a menu overhaul and coffee upgrade in two weeks; landlord "exploring options."

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.

Phil Shaw October 04, 2011 at 01:58 PM
I, for one, am tired of Mill Valley landlords jacking up the rents and driving out the most desireable tenants so that we can have yet another, unnecessary high profit salon or tourist boutique. Christine Lum, the property manager, had better figure into her negotiations with Champaign that the permitting process for a new tenant is going to be intractable and expensive. I think I can pretty much guarantee it.
Patty October 04, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Champagne is such a comfortable place to meet friends for coffee or a meal. I do hope they can work out a solution to stay in Mill Valley and serve locals as well as those who do not live in town. There are very few businesses left in town to serve locals.
CHERAY October 04, 2011 at 04:18 PM
I know that new restaurants in Mill Valley have had very difficult dealings with the city and being able to open has been difficult thus I hope we support the existing restaurants and businesses and hope the landlords are fair are supportive part of our business community. I hope Champagne stays !
Tracey Pharis October 04, 2011 at 06:57 PM
I totally agree!!! I to am a Mill Valley Native, and I am saddened that my towns Historic appeal has been lost as well as many local stores that as a child I used to frequent till I was a young adult! I graduated from every school here, including Tam in 1988. I am a Alum of the well well known INDIAN, am Not a Red Tailed Hawk! Since the Hawks took over, My school is not the same. Now Dish will be "THE HAWKS NEST" and The old Art Supplies store is going to be home to TAMALpie?? How coincidence is this??? I know life has many changes, but will these changes benefit everybody??? NO!!!! What Gives? Than add insult to injury The Hawks nest will be offering AGAVE (Indian Sweetner) in their drinks... We might as well have our Mascot back!!
Amyland October 05, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Ugh. The price of commercial real estate downtown is out of control. One BIG reason the owner of Canvas, a very successful and loved boutique, chose to hang it up is because she wasn't willing to fork over a ridiculous new rental amount. Same old story. . .
steven sargeant April 13, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Phil is right on the money.....What's going on in Mill Valley is like taxation...a penny here a penny there and before you know it you're broke. Mill Valley, little by little is being morphed into a soulless community lacking the charm it once had. I also think that when businesses are forced out by owners or property managers due to rent hikes, we should know the reason why and the names of the people responsible. These people are the quiet enemies of our little hamlet and most of us would like to prevent Mill valley becoming another Sausalito.
steven sargeant April 13, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Wanted to add to my last comment. If there are as many people against the erosion of Mill Valley as I am, I suggest, when changes are made that have an impact on the spirit and charm of Mill valley...that we boycott the businesses coming in that have no respect for what Mill Valley was and can be. Change is good but not at the expense of what has drawn a diverse population to our town. Example, all the talk about the new El Paseo and the majority of the reviews are pretty bad, especially the service. Don't go my fame alone....it takes more than a well known name to create a great restaurant. I am not proposing that we cause a problem, but anyone wishing to open a new business in Mill Valley should know that we will not stand by and be unheard. That being said big kudos to the new bakery next to Balboa...she's doing a great job and honors the Mill Valley tradition!!!

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