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Rocked by the pandemic, Fells Point record-coffee shop will close after one year in business

Baby’s on Fire, a coffee and record shop that got its start in Mount Vernon, is just one week shy of celebrating its one-year anniversary at its second location in Fells Point. But the shop won’t be around for too much longer than that.

Its owners announced Tuesday morning that Baby’s on Fire in Fells Point will be closing its doors at the end of this year after its debut was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic.

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David Koslowski, who owns the shop with his wife, Shirlé Hale-Koslowski, said they’ve tried just about every avenue to save the fledgling location. They remained open for takeout, started delivering, set up outdoor seating and applied for grants and loans. But with winter right around the corner and business not getting any better, they made the hard decision to call it quits.

“Unfortunately, the Pandemic kicked our ass at this location before we were able to really dig into the Fells Community,” Hale-Koslowski wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “We are certain that the love that the Fells community showered on us during our short stay would have been enough to help us thrive had the pandemic not hit.”

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The café's location in Mount Vernon, which has been around for about four and a half years, will remain open, the couple said.

During the pandemic, Hale-Koslowski said she and her husband closed the Mount Vernon shop down for around five and a half months for renovations, though they continued to send out deliveries to make rent. But when they opened back up, she said, all of their regular customers returned. Since then, business has been solid every single day.

She and her husband think that’s because by the time the pandemic hit, Baby’s on Fire had already cemented its place within the Mount Vernon community — the neighborhood where they’d both moved in the late 1980s before they met.

Any other time, the couple said, they are certain that the shop would’ve been successful in Fells Point. They had a great gig going for them when they opened up in November of last year, in a space connected to The Sound Garden on Thames Street. Their shop opened right into the record store, and they also had partnered with a friend who knew the bar business to offer drinks.

Before the pandemic set in, business was on an upward trend, Koslowski said. In fact, just one week before Gov. Larry Hogan ordered a shutdown of all bars and restaurants in the state, they had held a staff-wide meeting to start preparing for the spring and summer rush.

“And then it got real,” Koslowski said with a laugh.

On Facebook, customers expressed regret over the shop’s impending closure. “My lil heart,” one woman wrote, adding a sad face emoji. Others sent well wishes to the couple, with one promising better days to come, “now that the dark cloud over us all is moving away.”

“Listen, it’s a new dawn,” another wrote. “There is a light somewhere at the end of this tunnel. It doesn’t mean forever, it just means for now.”

At their Mount Vernon location, though, Koslowski and his wife are feeling pretty comfortable going into the winter. They’ve checked with the fire marshal about purchasing an outdoor heater to set up under a canopy tent outside of their shop and are also planning to lay a fleece blanket on each chair — an idea they’re borrowing from the outdoor restaurants they visited during a trip to Germany.

They’re planning to hold a holiday market in December, too, complete with vintage clothes, wreaths, jewelry, clocks and journals made from recycled records.

At this point, they’re just hoping the fall’s mild weather continues through March.

“I hate global warming,” Hale-Koslowski said, “but if it stays warm this year, I’ll be thankful.”

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