EVERETT — Marilyn Rosenberg waited for the ball to drop before closing Cafe Zippy, the offbeat restaurant and music hot spot, forever.
Rosenberg threw one last party at the cafe, a New Year’s shindig, on Eastern Standard Time.
Party-goers tapped their feet on the wooden floor and spilled onto the lighted patio. Badd Chicken, a local rock and blues band, and Hambone Wilson, a South Carolina blues artist, lit up the room from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
At 9 o’clock, Rosenberg zoomed in to New York City and the ball dropping in Times Square. “We celebrated our New York, New Year’s,” Rosenberg said.
It was exactly how she wanted the cafe’s 17-year run to end, with a bang and at an early hour.
“I don’t like to celebrate too late,” she said.
On Friday, Cafe Zippy pulled its last espresso shot and dished up the last vegan “tuna” salad, a fooler made with sunflower seeds, lemon and red onions.
Facing a $700 monthly increase in rent and personal health issues, Rosenberg opted to close the natural foods restaurant at 1502 Rucker Ave.
“I need to put myself first and have some balance in my life,” Rosenberg said. “My lease is up in December. This is the avenue I took.”
Cafe Zippy, named after Rosenberg’s beloved Dalmatian, first opened on Hewitt Avenue in 2005 as Zippy’s Java Lounge.
The spotted dog was ever-present in the cafe, and renditions of Zippy — drawn or painted by admirers — covered the walls.
In 2011, it relocated to 2811 Wetmore Ave., across from Funko.
For the past five years, the cafe has been ensconced in North Everett at 1504 Rucker Ave.
Cafe Zippy has always been more than its menu. Live music, poetry readings, game nights, comedy and fundraisers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Snohomish County and other groups — Zippy’s hosted them all.
“I started the cafe because I wanted people to connect,” Rosenberg said.
For those in search of a gift or tchotchke, she stocked cards, coffee mugs and Ruth Bader Ginsberg refrigerator magnets: “You can’t spell truth without Ruth.” An enormous cork bulletin board, overflowing with messages and business cards, filled a wall near the restrooms. She made a point of hiring workers with disabilities and urging other business owners to do the same.
In 2008, Rosenberg was honored with a KSER radio Community Impact Award. And Cafe Zippy received one of the Everett Cultural Arts Commission’s Mayor’s Arts Awards in 2015 for a business making a difference.
For Bill and Kim Conn, who live around the corner, Zippy’s has been a place to hear live music, meet artists and sit a spell on a sunny day with their three little dogs. Dogs are welcome on the outdoor porch, said Bill Conn, who named Jasper, Cooper and Chesney as beneficiaries of the cafe’s dog-friendly policy.
The kitchen was always a match for Kim Conn.
“Part of the reason I love this place is because it’s gluten-free and dairy-free,” Kim Conn said. “She has menu items that accommodate me. I don’t have to talk to the chef.”
“We’re going to miss coming here,” she added.
Rosenberg, a Minneapolis-St. Paul transplant who moved to Seattle 30 years ago, worked at Seattle-area restaurants and sold art at the Pike Place Market.
The market was where Rosenberg first met Zippy. Rosenberg’s friend, an avowed cat person, couldn’t resist a free Dalmatian puppy riding in a red wagon through the busy promenade.
“She took him home, and then showed up the next day asking if I’d take him. Turns out, she was a cat person,” Rosenberg said, laughing.
In 2002, she found her way to Everett when her horse, Mojo, ambled into her life. She was boarding him on Ebey Island when she discovered the waterfront city.
“Seattle felt like my forever home, until my journey brought me to Everett,” Rosenberg said.
She packed her bags and moved 25 miles north, to the city she calls a hidden gem. Mojo is 25 now and “healthier than ever,” she said. Zippy died in 2015.
“Everett is the best kept secret. It has a small town feel to it,” Rosenberg said. “No matter where you go you always run into people. I just can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s enriched me in so many ways.”
A food cart, a pop-up cafe, a wholesale version of her signature vegan tuna could be in the cards later this year, but “first a break,” said Rosenberg, who turned 57 on Monday. She plans to update the cafe’s Facebook page with her future moves.
Friday was bittersweet. Between boxing up wine and ringing up customers, Rosenberg described the parade of well wishers who’d taken the time to pop in.
“So many people have come in, in the last two weeks,” Rosenberg said. “I knew I had a big family, but I didn’t realize my family was so sweet. It just brings tears to my eyes.”
Pausing, Rosenberg adjusted the knit hat that held her braids in place and gazed at the familiar walls.
“I love what I do. I can’t really complain about how many hours at work and how long it’s been — because this is my passion, my heart. I only do what makes my heart happy,” Rosenberg said, a small, wistful note adding a tremble to her voice.
“The sweetest things in life are the people that your paths cross,” she said.
But, ah, Zippy’s vegan cinnamon rolls also have their place.