The abrupt closing of Spark Museum + Play Cafe in Urbana caused much confusion, and one area resident is leading the effort to resolve the hard feelings.
The non-for-profit children’s museum shut its doors March 22 at Lincoln Square with a brief statement on its Facebook page. It made no mention of restitution for active memberships, and the lack of available information or response from Spark officials has left some in C-U repulsed.
Spark member Denis Osipychev has started an online petition in hopes of sparking action from the business. He’d like Spark to reimburse unused membership fees.
“I had a membership to Spark and also introduced my friends to it, and one bought a membership two weeks before it closed,” Osipychev said last week. “And because of that, I took it as a personal issue.”
Osipychev said his attempts to contact Spark have been fruitless.
“We are not finding any help from previous owners or previous co-owners,” he said. “We have tried to make the case as public as possible to push them without going to court. So far we didn’t have any reply from one of the owners, and the second owner claimed she’s not responsible for this business since September. The problem is we don’t know who the owner is.”
Sonya Darter and Megan Gillette were the original forces behind the creation of Spark, which opened last June. Gillette released a statement last week that her business, Lumen Events, ended its association with Spark in September. Gillette remains a co-lessee of the Lincoln Square space that Spark previously occupied. Lumen has since announced it is opening a wine bar and event space in that spot.
“There has been some confusion about the relationship Lumen Events has to the now defunct Spark Museum + Play Cafe,” Gillette’s release said. “At the outset, the businesses shared the space and the vision. However, that relationship changed and Lumen has not been affiliated with Spark since last September. While Lumen understands the public’s frustration with this situation, neither CEO Megan Gillette nor Lumen have been partnered with Spark for some time. No Spark membership fees, profits or information about it’s (sic) members have ever been shared with Lumen.”
Osipychev said he was contacted by an attorney representing Gillette. “He was very ungracious to me. They said they would sue me for making any correlation between them and Spark. They didn’t even mention who might be the new owner or how we could contact the new owner.”
Matthew Peek, Gillette’s Champaign-based attorney, wrote a comment at the bottom of a Chambanamoms post in response to a previous commenter who linked Lumen with Spark: “As has already been pointed out, Megan has not been involved with Spark since it opened,” Peek wrote. “Megan had no involvement in the ownership, operation, or even the closing of Spark, I would kindly ask you to please refrain from making public statements when you lack the pertinent details.”
Darter, via e-mail, said Monday she would respond soon with a statement after consultation with her lawyer.
Osipychev’s petition had 58 signatures as of Monday morning. He said at least seven families had expressed interest in further action if Spark did not offer to reimburse unused membership fees.
Orpheum Children’s Science Museum has announced it will honor Spark memberships under certain conditions, saying “access will include reciprocal entry discount (i.e., 50 percent off general admission per visit for up to two adults and four kids) throughout 2018 and is contingent on the immediate purchase of a 2019 OCSM Super Family membership” which is valid Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2019. More details on Orpheum membership is here.