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Loyal customers raise money to help Westwood cafe stay afloat amid pandemic challenges

'We really just wanted to build a bridge to better times post-COVID.'
Muse Cafe Coffee and Wine Bar Westwood
Posted at 3:42 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 16:57:16-05

CINCINNATI — Shawntee Stallworth-Schramm, owner of Muse Cafe Coffee and Wine Bar, said her 3-year-old Westwood business was doing well until she got “stopped on the train tracks with COVID.”

Determined not to let a thriving business get stuck, two customers stepped in to build a bridge to keep Muse Cafe chugging along through the tough winter.

“It’s a place where people meet and center of activity within the business district that nobody wants to go dormant,” said regular customer Larry Eiser.

He and friend Stephanie Collins started a Facebook fundraiser when he noticed the cafe was struggling. They've raised more than $6,000, and Stallworth-Schramm said it’s just what she needs to get through the next several months while outdoor dining is difficult to maintain.

“We’ve had a lot of issues because of the weather," she said. "A lot of tent damages and other environmental issues with having outside seating that is not permanent. So they saw a need, and they just really kind of stepped in. It's really amazing because now, with that influx of cash, we know we can get through the winter. Now we have some money to either get more tents or fix what we have out there.”

Over a hundred people from across the city, not just Westwood residents, donated to the cafe that sits on the corner of Harrison Avenue and Montana Avenue. Eisner said he had to help because the business was too crucial to let fail.

“I think it's really become part of the fabric of Westwood,” he said. “We just thought, looking at Muse, based on its size and other factors, we felt like they needed some special assistance. We needed to reach out. We really just wanted to build a bridge to better times post-COVID.”

Co-fundraiser and loyal customer Stephanie Collins said supporting Muse was the right thing to do for the business and the neighborhood.

The cafe was one of the first to sign on when the business district was going through its revitalization, she added.

“We live in such a caring, welcoming neighborhood, and we really want to support our small businesses,” she said. “That’s one of my favorite things about Westwood. When we heard of a specific need, we just wanted to help. Larry and I started with a small goal, and the wonderful community really stepped up to knock it out of the park.”