Coffee House Press in Minneapolis is set to lose about one-third of its total staff as two editors—senior editor Lizzie Davis and associate editor Zoë Koenig—and publicist Daley Farr have submitted their resignations. The three will leave Coffee House’s by the end of the month, leaving seven employees, plus interim director Linda Ewing.
In a telephone interview, Ewing stated that Coffee House’s 13-member board had initiated a restructuring to maintain financial sustainability, but does not know whether this process had anything to do with the three departures. The board, Ewing explained, “has not made any changes that would precipitate their resignations.”
Ewing said revenues had been flat during Covid, but were up this past year, “though not significantly, but we’re turning the corner.” Even with the slight sales improvement, Ewing speculated that salaries could have played a role in the pending staff departures. She said that it has been difficult for Coffee House “to keep up with the market” in terms of salaries, and that it is “not unusual” that talented employees would move on to better-paying jobs. Davis has worked at Coffee House since 2015, while Farr and Koenig both have worked there since 2019.
Davis’ loss in particular will have an impact on Coffee House, as she is not only the press's longest-serving employee, but she has played a primary role in shaping its vision, which has become renowned in recent years for its edgy offerings.
Ewing said that she is already interviewing applicants and also hiring contractors to “make sure that we’re not leaving any of our authors in the lurch,” especially those with fall releases. There are six books on Coffee House’s fall 2023 list: three novels, a collection of poems, a collection of essays, and a work of nonfiction/criticism by National Book Award winner Justin Phillip Reed.
Coffee House Press has been roiled for the past few years by turnovers in its leadership. Chris Fischbach, who was at Coffee House for 25 years, the last nine as publisher, unexpectedly stepped down in late 2020. Anitra Budd, who also began her career in publishing at Coffee House, served as publisher for one year before stepping down in August 2022 to resume her work as a freelance writer and copy editor. Ewing has been interim director since January, while the board searches for a permanent publisher.
Farr confirmed in an email that her last day at work at Coffee House is May 26. Neither Davis nor Koenig responded to PW’s request for comment or confirmation of their departure dates.
Several Twin Cities industry veterans who have worked with Coffee House over the years expressed their concerns to PW regarding the direction the press is moving in due to the combination of a young staff—many of whom have worked there for only a year or two—an interim director without publishing experience, and a board that skews towards corporate leaders who lack knowledge of the publishing industry.
“I hope that Coffee House Press will be able to add a director who has directorial experience in publishing and who can pull all the departments of the press together,” one industry insider said. “It’s a critical matter to maintain the great legacy of Allan Kornblum as Coffee House Press—which began as Toothpaste Press in the early '70s—enters its sixth decade. Good luck, Coffee House.”