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Earth House cites unsustainable business model for closure

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Leaders of a church-affiliated Indianapolis arts organization are citing an unsustainable business model as the reason why its doors will close at the end of the month.

Earth House Collective, 237 N. East St., will host its final events on Aug. 31 before suspending operations, group board member Brenda Freije said Thursday.

Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church, where Freije is the pastor, began Earth House in 2007 by showing documentaries to the community. Over the years, the organization added services such as a cafe, art displays, live music and a community garden. One of its regular events is an open-mic night on Thursday evenings.

The Earth House sanctuary, which holds 600, and the cafe regularly hosted concerts and other events.

The collective at New York and East streets previously hosted monthly meetings of Verge, a networking group for techies and entrepreneurs that includes Chris Baggott, CEO of Compendium Blogware and co-founder of ExactTarget.

Baggott, the Efromson Family Fund, the Freije family and the Indianapolis Foundation were among the collective's biggest financial supporters.

Earth House operated as a supporting organization for the church, but was working on receiving independent 501(c)3 status from the IRS when the group's six board members decided costs were too much.

Freije said she did not have specific financial figures readily available during a phone interview Thursday morning. She repeatedly cited problems with the overall business model for the reason to close.

“Earth House tried to be fair and generous, and at some point you can be too generous,” she said.

Executive Director Jordan Updike could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Board President Joanna Nixon referred questions about the closure to Freije.

Freije said the church intends to maintain ownership of the building, but it has not decided what to do with the property.

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  • unknowing
    I live in Indy and go downtown frequently. I was not aware of the Earth House or the coffee shop. I wish I had known.
  • IAS loss
    Being the leader of Indianapolis Adults on the Spectrum and coming to this place every Saturday for our events for the past 9 months or so, it is a real shame this has to close. We were hoping to have this place as our stomping grounds for years to come, but are really saddened to see this close. we had many plans for set place and hoped to grow with them, but are saddened to see it go.
  • Regretable
    I have lived in Lockerbie Square e on New York Street close to the Earth House for many years. I am very sorry to hear of its closing. The management of the Earth House has worked diligently with the neighborhood association to integrate their activities in a positive way. They seemed to be reaching out to a younger generation to bring creativity and urban vitality while working to be respectful of the residents.
  • Poor marketing
    I live in Lockerbie about 2 blocks from Earth House and never could ascertain what the heck it was. It looked like a church, but the sign made it sound like some new-age hippie cult. If I knew it was a church-run coffee house I would have certainly checked it out. Too bad I'm learning this after they already closed.
    • Very poor marketing
      I live in Lockerbie about 2 blocks from Earth House and never could ascertain what the heck it was. It looked like a church, but the sign made it sound like some new-age hippie cult. If I knew it was a church-run coffee house I would have certainly checked it out. Too bad I'm learning this after they already closed.
    • Loss
      So sorry to lose this organization, which has been a delightful part of downtown residential culture the last few years. Earth House has always managed to be inventive and a little quixotic - hopefully some reorganization will come from this step and maybe a new future can await the organization.

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