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Good Karma Cafe’s original location closed indefinitely over the weekend after management said tens of thousands of dollars went missing from the Washington Square West coffee shop.
Customers who showed up Saturday morning found a note posted on the door citing a “significant sum of money” being embezzled at the location as the reason for the abrupt closure, which was described as “indefinite.”
Cafe employees were notified of the shutdown via email Friday evening, according to a screenshot provided to Billy Penn.
In the note to staff, Good Karma president Shawn Nesbit said $17,000 was “embezzled” from the cafe, and that management was working with authorities on an investigation, with “evidence” it was an internal theft.
The short email, which acknowledged a continuing “challenging environment,” left staff feeling confused and sad, according to an employee, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.
“We also aren’t sure why the store would close because of this. They don’t have nearly that amount of cash in the store at any given time, and it was also strange for them to publicize the info that money was stolen from that location,” the employee said.
Staff members who work at that location are still unclear about their employment status, they said.
Employees at Good Karma made history last March when they became one of the first Philly cafes to unionize with service industry-focused Local 80.
“Circumstances like these demonstrate the union difference,” said Alex Riccio, labor organizer for Local 80’s Philadelphia Joint Board Workers United. “With a union, an employer is bound to negotiate the effects of decisions like store closures, which provides a pathway for workers to shape decisions and their impacts.”
At the time of unionization last spring, there were four Good Karma locations open: 2319 Walnut St. (Rittenhouse), 331 S. 22nd St. (Fitler Square), 928 Pine St. (Washington Square West) and 265 Broad St. (Avenue of the Arts).
The Fitler Square location has since closed for renovations and hasn’t reopened. The Rittenhouse location shut down in August after the building was sold to new owners. Good Karma President Nesbit’s Friday night email said the Wash West location was due to close this month for renovations anyway, but “considering the financial impact of this theft,” would instead shutter immediately.
Presently, only the Broad Street Good Karma location remains open. Staff there did not want to discuss the purported embezzlement.
Customers shared their dismay over the Wash West store’s closure online. “It’s a shame because this was probably the best Good Karma location,” wrote one reddit user.
Nesbit declined to comment when approached by Billy Penn outside of the Pine Street location. A PPD spokesperson said a police report about the incident did not appear in the system.