Patterson Perk, a charming coffee and sandwich shop in Canton, will close at the end of the month after nearly 20 years in business, its owner confirmed.
The shop, perched on the corner of Eastern and South Milton avenues in Southeast Baltimore, served up fair trade and organic brews, locally baked pastries and homemade panini — plus views of the park from its towering front windows.
Jennifer Mach, who purchased the business about 15 years ago at the age of 22, said the COVID-19 pandemic proved extremely trying for the café.
Once the shop could reopen, Mach had to rethink its operating procedures and saw a chunk of her revenue diverted toward third-party ordering services. With the shop pared down to a skeleton crew, Mach found herself working 60-hour weeks, on top of her gigs as a wedding singer and Zoom coach. She sewed and sold thousands of masks, and watched in awe as prices for everything from gloves to bacon skyrocketed.
Eventually, it all became too much. On Halloween, the café will close its doors, although it may open up for a few odd days in November for neighbors to come say goodbye, Mach said.
“It’s been my whole adult life, pretty much. And then I made it through the recession,” Mach said, “and it took me almost a decade to recover from that and really start making some money and have it really make sense as a business. And now the last few years have just been really, really difficult.”
Mach said she’ll look back fondly on the local art shows held at the café and the blues and funk tunes that flowed from the speakers. But, perhaps most importantly, she’ll remember the people she met from behind the counter.
“I‘ve had young people come out to us in the store before they came out to their parents because they felt safe to do that, you know? We’ve always had a staff of like mostly women, mostly queer people,” Mach said. “That feels really special, knowing that I had a place where people felt safe enough to do that.”
For 12-year-old Gus Bruckmann Juknebicius, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the shop was something of a refuge during the pandemic.
When his family moved to Butchers Hill in 2009, Gus was just a baby, and snacked on black-bottom muffins before waddling over to the playground in Patterson Park, said his mom Lara Bruckmann. But in recent years, Gus discovered the shop for himself, and made a point of stopping by for snacks and lattes.
“I went in one time with no money. A day or so later I asked my mom for a 20, went down there, grabbed some breakfast. And it was just like the interior was just so peaceful, you know?” the Hampstead Hill Academy student said.
He’ll miss making small talk with the baristas, and he’ll think of cheesy breakfast sandwiches when he stops for ice cream at BMore Licks across the street on his walks home from school.
“It really was nice to have a go-to place, when you’re stressed where you can go to a relaxed setting and eat warmth on carbohydrates,” he said.
Lara Bruckmann said she hopes the shop is going out on a high note. After vandals smashed the store’s front window and damaged outdoor furniture earlier this summer, community members donated thousands of dollars to help the struggling store fund the repairs.
“I’m glad they were able to see that kind of support from the neighborhood,” she said.
While it’s unclear which new tenant will take over once the store’s Patterson Park pagoda-themed sign falls, Mach said she knows much of the furniture and equipment in the shop is bound for other local restaurants, and for the Metro Gallery on Charles Street, where her husband is now a part-owner. And the shop’s journal, where customers scribbled thank-yous and musings over the years, might even be digitized to keep old memories alive, Mach said.
“We’ve just gotten to see the whole neighborhood grow,” Mach said. “I’ve had couples that I’ve known before they got married, then they got married and then they would stop in for like a pastry on the way to the hospital to give birth.”
For Rozalyn Moore, who’s lived in the Patterson Park Apartments next to the shop for three years, it was a reliable place for hot coffee with steamed oat milk and tasty vegetarian sandwiches. To her, it felt homier than some of the more upscale coffee shops in the neighborhood and in nearby Fells Point.
“Patterson Perk would be more of your neighborhood vibe. Just pop in — even hair not done — and just run down there,” she said.
In Patterson Perk’s absence, Mach said she’s hopeful the neighborhood will keep supporting its small businesses as they square up against large chains, and keep contributing to nonprofits like the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund. Earlier this year, Mach helped create “Back of House,” a cookbook filled with Baltimore recipes, the proceeds of which are going to the fund.
“I think the restaurant industry is going to really start changing and the biggest thing that we’ve always advocated is for people to stay kind to each other,” Mach said.