A large crowd was on hand Monday night in the American Legion Post on Adams Street to hear the plans for the Tatte Bakery local chain to occupy the ground floor of the refurbished and expanded 40 Warren St. office building.
The meeting featured Attorney Steve Miller, and Tatte founder Tzurit Or, explaining their project to about 30 residents who voiced a mix of outright support, and downright opposition.
The proposal would be the 14th location for the Greater Boston chain, and would occupy about 3,900 sq. ft. – which is the entirety of the new retail space in what was once solely a parking garage.
The bakery would have 89 seats, and would have hours of roughly 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. – serving as a community hang-out, said Or, that would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual setting. There would be no alcohol service, and prep work at the bakery would begin at around 6 a.m. A commissary in Cambridge would provide their baked goods, but there would be a sauté cooking area and a flat-top grill. Trash would be stored inside, and picked up daily.
“We were looking in Charlestown for space around three years,” said Or. “There aren’t many options in Charlestown. We really would like to be in the neighborhood and part of the community. This (lease) was a big deal for us.”
However, there was a good deal of skepticism from the audience that the bakery/café would work on that corner. There were concerns of saturation and double parking – as well as the large space.
“This community is one square mile and within that one square mile there are four or five similar businesses,” said one neighbor. “Their owners live in the Town. You aren’t local and you could very well shut those local businesses down.”
However, another neighbor sitting adjacent to that man disagreed.
“I’m a supporter of Tatte going in on Warren Street,” he said. “I understand the saturation concerns, but I think the neighborhood is underserved. This is a positive thing and there have to be more additions to the neighborhood. Try going out with kids and finding a place to have a meal. It’s very hard. There aren’t many options.”
Tracy Zimmerman, owner of Charlestown Tea & Treats – a local bakery about two blocks away – said she supports Tatte coming in as a business owner, but not as a resident.
“As a small business owner, I’m not worried about you coming in,” she said. “You will bring jobs to the community and typically if you find them locally, it will be good. I think the competition will be good because it keeps us from being complacent as a small business owner. It helps us to use our imagination and our business savvy to keep our loyal customers.”
As a resident though, she said no way.
“As an abutting resident, I am vehemently against you coming into this small neighborhood,” she added. “Your space at 4,000 sq. ft. is way too big. You will be larger than the Starbucks (in Thompson Square). You can fit 21 school buses in 4,000 sq. ft….The location is a problem.”
Others were worried about trash pickup and deliveries, particularly because the area is a very tight neighborhood with narrow streets and limited parking.
Or said she has enough leverage to control the times of deliveries and trash pickups. She said she also has the ability to use product delivery trucks that will fit the 30-foot commercial loading space being provided.
Many were concerned that there would be a rash of double-parking in front of the store when people from the area rush in to get a quick coffee and pastry – something that potentially could be a bigger problem in the snowy months.
“They’ll say they’re just going in for a couple of minutes and they’ll double park, but when that happens several times, it adds up,” said one resident.
Offering a supportive perspective on that, however, was an unlikely supporter – Janae Ricci, the manager of the Starbucks in Thompson Square.
“I only have one lane of traffic in front of my store and I have no double-parking in front of the store,” she said. “People will find a place to park and walk. The cops write tickets and they watch for this. I don’t really foresee that being a problem. We don’t have any issue with double parking.”
Abutter Ken Flynn, who has battled the 40 Warren St.project off and on for many years, said he adamantly opposes the bakery and is willing to fight it in court. His problems, admittedly, are with the overall development and its developer – in addition to the bakery.
“It’s not in the right area of our community,” he said. “I have a benefactor that has provided $100,000 for legal fees to fight this moving forward.”
That pretty much ended the animated meeting on the night, but more is to come.
Tatte in Charlestown has a hearing scheduled at the License Board in City Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. in Room 809a.