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After pandemic struggle, Ogden's Jessie Jean's Café closes

Posted at 9:07 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 00:08:21-05

OGDEN, Utah — As snowflakes floated through the air on Ogden's Historic 25th Street Tuesday, people stepped up to the front of Jessie Jean's Café. While the front doors were unlocked, they were met with a large white sign with blue marker on the glass, indicating customers wouldn't be able to step inside and place an order.

"It's like the snow piling up right now. It just eventually just gave through," said Ron Davidson of Jessie Jean's Café.

The sign read: "Jessie Jeans is now Closed. Thank you for everything!" It asked people to please be safe and finished with, "Thank you for 20 years. Anna and Ron."

"We just decided to rip the Band-Aid off, so-to-speak," owner Anna Davidson said. "I just didn't think that there was an easy way to do it."

The difficult message on the sign came as a shock to community members. There wasn't a heads up or announcement beforehand of the closure. There wasn't a last goodbye.

The Davidsons said they weren't planning to shut the café down for good on Tuesday, but after opening for less than an hour that morning, Ron took things in a different direction.

It came after weeks of tough discussion and the realization that they just couldn't continue forward.

"We like to live on the hopes and dreams of making things be successful, but the reality is, is COVID had killed us," Anna said.

Jessie Jean's Homestyle Café has barely been surviving for the better part of a year. Even with grants and loans, and surges of customer support that swamped them on some days, the Davidsons explained that it only kept the café going for a little bit at a time.

Eventually, they would end back up in the same spot a couple of months later, struggling to keep up with rent, payroll, and utilities.

Anna described how rent is just shy of $5,000 a month. Payroll is another $12,000 a month. The Davidsons said they hadn't been taking home any money for themselves.

With the popularity of orders coming through meal delivery apps, the couple said that also cut their profit down even more. They said the delivery apps take about 20-25 percent, leaving them with a margin of only five percent instead of 30 percent.

It all became too much to manage. Something had to give.

"It's just been like the pandemic, the rules, the having to do the ordering apps, losing money on the ordering apps, the lack of business inside, the lack of ability to maintain good staff... needing to work outside of our own business to be able to pay our personal bills to survive," Anna listed off.

Anna went to work at her other job Tuesday morning, and said Ron made the decision to close after initially opening for business.

The couple then contacted The Lantern House in Ogden to donate all of the café's food and said they will be contacting other nonprofits to donate other items from the restaurant.

It's left them uncertain of what comes next.

"I think we're going to sit home and have a good cry. And then I'm not sure... honestly," Anna said, as tears streamed down her face. "I don't... I don't know."

It's hard to know where to go next after the couple spent two decades using the café as a platform for what they are most passionate about — raising awareness around mental health issues and helping those experiencing homelessness.

The restaurant often provided free meals and gave back to the community in a number of ways.

Ron and Anna expressed that they want to continue to make a difference.

"We have options, we've just got to pick the right path from here forward," Ron said.

The two recently formed a new nonprofit called The RAD Hero Foundation. Ron said it stands for "Ron and Anna Davidson Helping Everyone Receive Opportunity."

Even with the new nonprofit taking shape, they didn't plan on closing Jessie Jean's. And they certainly didn't want to.

"Today has been an emotional roller coaster," Anna said. "To know the impact that we made in the community and the amount of support that we have, and the amount of people that we've touched in their lives. I'm so grateful and so thankful, and I wouldn't trade one day of these 20 years."

"No," Ron echoed. "I wouldn't either."