Foam Asks for Help, Hoping GoFundMe Will Solve Its Monetary Woes

click to enlarge Mic Boshans, who has owned Cherokee Street's Foam since 2014, is seeking donations. - KELLY GLUECK
Mic Boshans, who has owned Cherokee Street's Foam since 2014, is seeking donations.

It is rare that Mic Boshans, the owner of Cherokee Street bar/coffee shop/music venue Foam (3359 S. Jefferson Avenue, 314-772-2100), gets a night off. But on January 11, after Boshans ended his shift as a bartender at the Four Seasons’ Cinder House, he was free for the evening. Snow was already piling up on the ground and double-digit-inch forecasts circulated all across St. Louis. So, naturally, Boshans hopped in his car, turned on the Uber app, and started driving.

For a “night off,” Boshans made a good amount of money trudging through the city, picking up people who didn’t want to drive on that snowy Friday night. And for Boshans, the money adds up, as he musters every last piece of energy to keep his beloved Foam afloat.

On Sunday, Boshans used social media to share a GoFundMe campaign he had created. In the 1,300-word description, Boshans explained why Foam could possibly be closing. It needed financial assistance — and soon. After taking out multiple loans, including one to buy the space five years ago, Boshans is still working to pay off his debts. On top of that, the business has been impacted by other closures on the street, he wrote. He saw a 22 percent drop in average September sales, which has been followed by a 70 percent drop in January sales to date.

Now Boshans is not only trying to make up for this loss in revenue, but simply to keep the business running. For a year, the idea of creating a GoFundMe had been in the back of his mind and, with the recent struggles, he decided now was the time to ask the community for help. “When it felt like do or die, we decided to [use GoFundMe],” Boshan says. “It was the best way to reach a large group of people quickly, because we need funds quickly.”

Founded in 2009, the venue has become a staple on Cherokee Street, an area known for its food, nightlife, and music scenes, especially within the local and national DIY scenes. Foam, in particular, has become famous for its intimate crowds and quality music. It has hosted stars like James McCartney and Walk The Moon. But, unlike many music venues, the business doesn’t take “door money,” or a portion of the ticket sales, from concerts. Instead, it relies solely on its bar for revenue, allowing the musicians and sound crews to receive all of their ticket revenues.

This can be a huge gamble,” Boshans writes on the GoFundMe page. “For example, in 2018 we hosted at least 3 sold out events, unfortunately, on two of those nights, the bar ring didn’t equate to our daily ‘break even,’ because ticket sales don’t always equate to bar sales.” Still, it is part of what makes Foam special and that, Boshans says, won’t change.

Instead, he has turned to the community — and not for the first time. Within the first two months of taking over the business in 2014, Boshans says the bar was broken into twice. The first break-in resulted in a stolen PA system. To make up for the loss, Boshans and Foam hosted a fundraiser at the bar and were lent an additional PA system. After earning the money to buy a new one, the PA system was stolen again, but the bar found ways to continue running, even after installing a security system.

Once again, the people of St. Louis area are showing their unwavering support for Boshans’ business. Just two days into the GoFundMe posting, he has received 114 donations and $3,570 of the desired $29,500. The number keeps rising.

“I’ve been surprised by how many people have been giving and how much people have been giving,” Boshans says. It has all happened fast and with open arms. Comments like “Mic is an utterly stalwart supporter of the arts” and “This place is such a great spot for DIY bands/artists regionally, nationally, and internationally!” fill that section of Boshans’ GoFundMe page.

Boshans says he doesn’t have a backup plan if the GoFundMe fails to hit its goal. He says he’ll give the campaign a month, but the donated money has already helped to cover bills.

Right now, he’s focused on hosting worthwhile shows for the rest of January and the upcoming months. The Foam website lists events as late as April 22. Even February is packed to the brim with eight events in the first ten days. But in the meantime, Boshans will continue driving for Uber, continue bartending and continue checking GoFundMe every down moment he gets.

And, of course, he will continue running Foam and finding ways to pay his six workers. “I’ll sell the contents of the building before I don’t pay my employees,” he says.