Kiva Han to close in February

Justin McGown Jan 30, 2012

On Feb. 19, Kiva Han Cafe will close its doors for the last time.

Standing at the southern corner of Forbes Avenue and Craig Street, the cafe has been a local landmark for Carnegie Mellon students and locals alike for 10 years. Despite high popularity, a loyal clientele, and an excellent location, John Mutchka, the owner of Kiva Han Cafe, has been forced to shut down his business. Mutchka said that several factors contributed to his decision, including competition from the Starbucks directly across the street.

“There are a lot of reasons,” Mutchka said. “We’ve been here 10 years. And it’s really difficult for us to afford the rent. And somebody offered more for the space, and was willing to build out the space.” The Bagel Factory will be moving into Kiva Han’s current location and will be expanding upon the current property. The owners of the Bagel Factory — Charles Avalli and June and David Feldstein — said they plan to entirely renovate the space, putting in new windows, all-new signage and paint, a larger kitchen, and increased seating. They hope to provide a more diner-like menu and atmosphere. With an emphasis on a more expansive menu, they believe the Starbucks across the street will not be too dangerous to their business.

“That corner will be completely redone,” Feldstein said. “We are putting in new windows and everything.” Feldstein noted that a new decor will also be used, creating a new environment. “We’ve taken some flack for [moving into the location],” Feldstein said, “but we’re not a corporate giant. We’re a family business. I’m glad they kept it a Pittsburgh franchise.”

An applied anthropologist by trade, Mutchka conceived Kiva Han Cafe as an experiment of sorts. While originally planned as an employee-owned and operated enterprise, when sales began to flag only two years after the opening, Mutchka felt that he could not, in good conscience, give the shop to his employees.

Mutchka claims that some longtime patrons were on the verge of tears upon receiving the news of the shop’s closing. “We all have the same mindset,” Mutchka said of the unique community that the coffee shop has attracted, “and that’s why Kiva Han was such a great place for us.”

“My world is literally falling apart because Kiva Han is closing,” said Rokhini Prabhu, a first-year electrical and computer engineering major. She said she preferred the “hipster” vibe of the cafe over the neighboring Starbucks. “There’s something nice about being able to just sit there and enjoy good coffee in peace, which is not something I can do in Starbucks; [Kiva Han is] much quieter,” she added. “Although, in retrospect, that might explain the problem.”