What do a moody cocktail bar, a bustling Oaxacan restaurant and mezcaleria, and a chill destination for wine, sake and beer all have in common? They're all the creative products of one of Baltimore's most innovative young restaurateurs: Lane Harlan.
Guests visiting any of Harlan's spots will walk away feeling satisfied, and it's also likely they'll go home with some new knowledge.
As proprietor, Harlan views educating guests as part of her role, and one of her strengths is creating a dining or drinking experience that's instructive but never feels preachy or like a chore.
At Fadensonnen, that means talking with guests about wine and sake. "My generation hasn't grown up in a wine or sake culture," she says. "By making these products made by extremely small producers accessible and providing education, we've been able to reinvigorate a culture of eating, drinking and gathering."
Given the captivating atmospheres of her establishments, it's easy to think of Lane Harlan as a visionary. But she's also a practical businesswoman. It's her attention to detail and sharp business mind that have helped her turn her ideas into successful businesses--along with a lot of hard work and her willingness to build and rely on a solid team.
"Baltimore is filled with opportunity," she says. "I don't mean this in a Hallmark card way."
Harlan sees that opportunity in the many empty or under-utilized commercial buildings scattered around the city. When she and husband Matthew Pierce opened W.C. Harlan in 2013, the building had been on the market for over a year--as a residential property with no commercial licensing. She took a high-risk loan to buy the building and went door-to-door in the neighborhood to gather signatures on a petition to renew the expired license. It worked.
Harlan and her partners are far from finished. Next up: a small bottle shop, Angels Ate Lemons, will open above Sophomore Coffee later this year. The shop will carry items like natural wine and sake, and shoppers can stop in for daily tastings.
Her existing businesses aren't fixed in space, either. "They are continually evolving as we gain more knowledge, inspiration and understanding of our community's needs," she says.