A fundraiser is scheduled at Cenote cafe this Saturday to help the owners of Jumpolin – the piñata store razed last month by new landowners – get back on their feet financially and find a new location. Jumpolin owners Monica and Sergio Lejarazu will be selling miniature piñatas and cascarones for the Easter season, each priced at $10. The confetti-filled eggshells will come in 30-count packs, Monica Lejarazu said.
"The purpose is to raise funds so we can buy more merchandise for Easter week, which was always our best season," Monica said in a Wednesday telephone interview. The tiny piñatas – intended as festive keepsakes – will feature traditional shapes of cartoon characters, animals, and fruits, she said. But she made a point to also include among the offerings diminutive phoenixes rising from the ashes, symbolic of the couple's personal ordeal.
Business partners Jordan French and Darius Fisher of F&F Real Estate Ventures commissioned a wrecking crew in the early morning hours of Feb. 12 to demolish the longstanding store at 1401 E. Cesar Chavez in their attempts to clear the lot for a SXSW-timed event. The Lejarazus claim the landowners – who bought the property in October – gave them no notice to the demolition (their piñata inventory was still inside), and have since retained an attorney to sue the landlords (see "Jumpolin & Gentrification Backlash," March 13). They had more than two years left on their lease as part of a five-year lease renewal from their previous landlord.
Cenote is located just a healthy stone's throw from the former Jumpolin site. Cafe co-owner Cody Symington expressed his empathy for the Lejarazus in a previous interview with the Chronicle, indicating he had offered his site for a possible fundraiser to assist them. The Lejarazus have temporarily relocated to 4926 E. Cesar Chavez at a property owned by community leader Rosa Santis, who offered the site as temporary dwelling for two months.
But it's already been one month since the destruction of their business, Monica noted, and the couple now must bolster their search for a new business base while trying to stay financially afloat. Already, the search for a new site in the familiar terrain where the couple had established their clientele for eight years before the unexpected demolition is proving challenging, said Monica. Conversations she was having with one property owner in the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood suddenly ceased when she indicated the couple's affordability price range would be between $1,500 and $2,800, maximum.
"I didn't hear from him after that," she said. In the years since the couple launched Jumpolin, the landscape has changed, she observed. Whereas the couple was originally paying $800 a month for the small store that was ultimately demolished, she said rent is now in the $2,000-3,000 range.
But she's hopeful the fundraiser – and a concurrent one at GoFundMe nearing $5,000 in donations – will raise enough money to start over. This week already a good omen emerged: F&F Ventures' lawyers delivered a box filled with business documents, which was among the debris of the demolition. Inside, kept neatly in a folder, she found the dollar she had saved from the couple's first sale after launching Jumpolin. "I think it's a good sign," she said.
The fundraiser at Cenote, 1010 E. Cesar Chavez, is this Saturday, March 28, from noon to 4pm.
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