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Published March 13th, 2024
The end of an era
Laura Kirleis Photo Sharon K. Sobotta

Laura Kirleis sat on a lawn chair in front of the tiny square Perks/Caffino where she's spent a quarter-century of her life - serving coffee, smoothies, hot breakfast sandwiches, snacks, warm greetings, smiles, and well wishes. "I'm sad," Kirleis said while smiling through tears "I'm going to miss it. The people we see everyday mean a lot. There's a lot of interaction. It's a very special place."
Kirleis's journey to Caffino-turned Perks began when she was caring for young children and her grandmother, who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. At the time, her husband came home from his job at (another) Caffino and told Kirleis that they should buy a franchise. This surprised Kirleis as a non-coffee drinker. "He told me that after my grandmother passes, (the drive through coffee shop) would save me. He said I'd need the camaraderie of people around me...and he was right. It has saved me," Kirleis said. "I love the people here. People are busy, but this has been a place they could go while on the run. I can't tell you how many times someone at one window knew the person at the other one."
As Kirleis chats in front of Perks, former customer Keenan Parmelee stops by. "I've been coming here everyday since my son was very young and now he's a teenager. This place (and the staff) have been a part of our lives and my kids' lives. It was the one place I could come to during the pandemic," Parmelee said. "It's been an important part of our community. I guess now I'm going to have to make my own coffee."
Kirleis had been led to believe (by her landlord) that she was vacating for the sake of a forthcoming construction so the city could build offices and a teen center, which she deemed a worthy cause.
"I don't think we would've survived the construction of this lot with me in it," Kirleis said. "Maybe I (might've proposed) that we stay until the plans are developed or the construction begins."
It turns out, however, that although the city has been interested in acquiring the Boswell's property, which city manager Niroop Srivastsa said is ideally situated between the police station and the library, the city has not purchased the property. Srivastsa said the city appraised the property in 2019 and the owners declined. In late 2023, when the Lafayette city council was approached by the property owner about a potential sale, the council declined the offer.
"The City supports and values local businesses," Srivastsa said. "We also have a strong partnership with the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and support the local small business community through Shop Local promotions such as the new ExperienceLafayette.org business directory website and the eCard Program (a localized gift card that works at participating local stores)."
For now though,the lot, which once bustled with people driving through or walking up to get coffee or snacks, sits still in front of what has been a cornerstone of community and connection to Lamorindins-marking the end of an era.

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