As live music lulls young Hayden and Cadence Schropp to sleep, their father expresses his desperate desire that their first live show at Canvas Cafe won’t be their last. “Hopefully, we’re just giving her a nap,” Aaron Schropp says, referring not to passed-out 2-year-old daughter, Cadence, but to the eatery-turned-sometime venue he’s owned and operated since October 2007. “I really want to bring her back.”
Tonight, the last night in February, marks the end of the line—maybe for now, maybe forever—for Canvas, the quirky hangout tucked into a strip mall at the corner of Silverado Ranch and Bermuda. What started as a bistro-cum-coffee shop and evolved into a hub for underground visual artists and musicians won’t reopen in the morning, a victim, Schropp explains, of old-school loan requirements he believes shouldn’t apply in today’s dismal economy.
“We were still growing. We just needed access to capital,” he says. “We were up in January [from January ’08], and we’re going to finish February up, too—in this economy! We haven’t had a down month. But you need 24 operating months to get a look from banks; we had 19. We went to 13 banks and credit unions and couldn’t get any help.”
Ironically, Schropp says he’s received several phone calls from potential investors since word of his business’ demise began making the local media rounds. That, and some landlord assurance his space won’t be immediately turned over, has given the eternally optimistic chef renewed faith. “We’ve put so much into it,” he says. “People said this town had no culture. We said ‘shenanigans’ to that.”
One night after Holding on to Sound anchored a bill that drew a crowd of around 180 to Canvas, tonight’s finale brings at least that number through the joint, over the course of an eight-plus-hour parade of local acts. In trademark genre-hopping Canvas fashion, the night begins with folk (The Petals), goes electronic (Ex-Dinosaur) and hits the hip-hop (JLA, whatfOUR, HighDro, Mob Zombie) before concluding with good ol’ rock ’n’ roll (Vietnam Cowboy, Hungry Cloud). Fittingly, Hungry Cloud shuts Canvas down, full-band-style, some 13 months after frontman Mike Weller helped usher in the establishment’s live-music era with a series of solo gigs.
Through it all, Schropp serves decadent hot chocolate and tasty frites (thick potato fries with a variety of dipping sauces), accepts hugs from despondent acquaintances and stands on his customary perch behind the counter, cheering on the evening’s performers. “Tonight is tough,” he says near the end, “but everybody should be proud of what we accomplished.”