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The Baltimore Sun

Artist Café set to start brewing October 17

A mere four months after Six Mile Coffee closed, a new coffee shop will open in its place.

Artist Café will pour cups of joe and serve sandwiches and pastries at its soft opening Oct. 17 and will have its grand opening Oct. 21, nearly a year to the day after Six Mile Coffee started business.

Debbie Ford, a Catonsville resident for 26 years, started Artist Café with partner Andy Richardson, of Pennsylvania. She was a regular customer of the Six Mile Coffee drive-through, visiting as often as three times a week.

When she found out the shop at 609 Frederick Road was closing, she called Richardson and said, "We need to save this coffee shop."

The pair, each with more than 25 years of painting experience, had wanted to open a restaurant, but feared the restrictions a franchise could impose.

"We want to do our own thing," said Ford, attributing their desire to run the business their own way. "I heard about (Six Mile Coffee closing on) June 23, it closed June 30, and we scrambled to grab this up."

In addition to continuing Six Mile Coffee's tradition of having an open mic night, part of the creative strategy Ford and Richardson will implement is having art classes in the basement of the shop.

A price has not been set for those classes, but they said the class would be inexpensive and include a free drink.

Richardson, who recently won a first- and third-place prize for his work from the York Art Association, will teach abstract art and collage on Monday nights.

On Friday nights, Ford will hold a Ladies' Night Out that will teach a variety of artistic techniques, such as scrapbooking, knitting, crocheting and collage.

"A lot of people get stuff they haven't even started, and they have this stuff at home in their closets. They need a place to complete that," Ford said. "When you're in a group, you feed off that creativity. It inspires you."

Ford and Richardson will also expand the menu previously offered, and will include sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches and pastries, they said.

Customers can let their creativity run amok with their drinks as well.

The café will offer more coffee flavorings than a Starbucks, including some unique flavors, such as cake batter and toasted marshmallow, Ford said.

"Create your own drink, create your own sandwich, like you would create a piece of art," Ford said. "Whatever you want, we will accommodate."

Ford noted that the menu will consist of as much organic food as they can possibly acquire.

"I think the key to success in a food business is freshness," Richardson said. "We're going to cater to people who are interested in wholesome food, fresh food, quickly. As fast as we can, anyway."

After the kinks are eliminated, speedy service may not be a problem, considering Artist Café has already hired three Starbucks-trained baristas.

Chris Sikora, the owner of Six Mile Coffee, said his biggest challenge was drawing more than the 100 to 120 customers he averaged per day, far less than the 200 he planned. Because of that, the shop generated only half of its projected sales revenue, Sikora said.

"We just couldn't go on any more," Sikora said just before his business closed. "If money hadn't run out, we would still be able to build up our business."

A lack of parking likely contributed to the slow business, he said.

Richardson countered, though, that if Artist Café keeps the 15 spaces it has filled, he will love dealing with that problem.

"I'm hoping that 15 spaces won't be enough," said Richardson, noting they have as much parking as many other businesses on Frederick Road.

"I'm hoping that we're going to have people go around the block to get a parking space."

Sikora cited a 30 percent uptick in business in March and April, but only modest gains after that.

"If I could have lasted another three to four months, I think we would have gotten there," Sikora said.

Artist Café may be able to ride the momentum Sikora built.

When asked what the best part of opening the shop has been so far, Ford responded, "The enthusiasm from the community."

Initially, Artist Café's will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

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