WATCH NOW: Sparta cafe tries essay contest as alternative to conventional business sale | Local News

Haldeman is looking to exit the restaurant business but hopes an essay contest will leave Meraki Cafe and Curio Shoppe to someone who carries on the Meraki message.

Anyone willing to put down $200 and write a 500-word essay has a chance to own both the business and building at 119 N. Water St. in downtown Sparta. Haldeman purchased the former Steph’s Cake & Bakes in November 2020 but decided to part with the business after her son and daughter pursued other careers.

Haldeman has experience with such contests. In 2015, she wrote an essay and paid $150 for a chance to own a restaurant in Maine. She said the essay contest is an appealing alternative to a conventional sale.

“It’s write an essay, win a cafe,” she said. “We didn’t want to sell it to just anybody. We wanted it to be somebody who actually wanted to run a business similar to this in Sparta.”

Haldeman said she’s not in charge of gathering the entries.

“I don’t collect the entries at all,” she said. “I have someone else, another business owner here in Sparta, who is collecting the entries, and that person will keep the check and entry form together.”

Haldeman said that she and the other judges, including Meraki customers and two retired teachers, will read the essays without knowing the identity of the authors until the winner is picked.

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The entry deadline is Nov. 30, but that could be waived if the contest is short of the 2,500 entries Haldeman is seeking. She said if there aren’t enough entries, essay writers will have their $200 returned.

Haldeman, who has lived in the Sparta area all her life, said she wants to devote more time to traveling and her podcast Tammy for Change. If the contest doesn’t attract enough essays, she’ll continue to operate the restaurant, which offers breakfast and lunch items as well as baked goods, specialty coffee and homemade ice cream.

Essay entries can be sent to Write an Essay, Win a Cafe contest, P.O. Box 8, Sparta, WI 54656. Haldeman said $200 isn’t much for a chance to own a business.

“You could spend $200 at the bar, you could spend $200 at the mall or you could spend $200 on Amazon at the blink of an eye,” she said. “Whoever gets it would get it free and clear.”

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