Where Are the Coffee Shops?

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I used to jokingly refer to Charmington‘s, a charming new(ish) coffee shop between Charles Village and Remington, as my office. It’s got big windows, good coffee, and  a good circulation of friends stopping by to say hello. It also has all the wireless internet my heart could desire — that is, until last week when they instituted a recent policy where they cut the wifi from 11am-2pm.

Before anyone grumbles at me, I should say that I understand the rationale – it’s important to keep tables open for lunch customers, and some of us laptop-laden workers think we’re entitled to hunker down at a table for hours because we’ve bought a $1.50 coffee. It would be a fine policy, if there were other options — but Baltimore is kind of an internet wasteland. And it has the potential to destroy our economy.

(Don’t believe me? Well, a list:  Carma’s in Charles Village has great coffee and soup but no wifi; the nearby Starbucks does, but you have to pay. In Hampden, Common Ground is wifi-free; Spro is, too, ostensibly — though in the front room you can poach an open signal, but who knows how long that will last. The Hampden public library doesn’t have wireless, either. Usually if I’m in the neighborhood and need to do some internet work, I just go to my friends’ house.)

But this isn’t just about me and my selfish desire to check my email while sipping a latte; coffee shops may actually be vital to Baltimore’s very survival. Richard Florida coined the term “creative class” to refer to the artists, graphic designers, tech workers, and other “high bohemian” types who, he theorizes, will drive the economy of successful cities of the future. Austin, Portland, San Francisco:  these places attract the kind of people that Florida’s talking about. And they all famously have vibrant coffee shop cultures. If Baltimore is serious about wanting to attract creative types, we need to figure out where they’ll get their work done.



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6 COMMENTS

  1. There are quite a few places you left off of your list. Here’s just a few that I can think of off-hand:
    One World Cafe
    Chocolatea
    The Evergreen
    Sweet Sin
    Bohemian Coffeehouse
    McDonald’s (really, they do)
    Enoch Pratt Library’s Central Branch has wifi and coffee and is, in my opinion, one of the most gorgeous places to work in town. It’s also very easy to get to via public transportation.

    In Hamilton/Lauraville you can enjoy free wifi at Zeke’s, the Hamilton Bakery, and Red Canoe. And there’s also High Grounds by Patterson Park. I’ve driven by a few cafes in Locust Point and Federal Hill that advertise wifi but as I don’t frequent those areas I can’t tell you their names.

  2. I always forget about Sweet Sin! You’re right. And the Bohemian Coffeehouse has become my new office — but I still mourn the loss of Charmington’s, since their light is so much better.

  3. I can’t believe I forgot my favorite spot: Red Emma’s! The best thing about cafe working is that you can move around from one to the other. Morning at Charmington’s, lunch at Bohemian, and afternoons are up for grabs!

  4. I love Red Emma’s for many reasons, but I generally find it a TERRIBLE place to get work done – people are always having loud meetings or loud political debates or just loud conversations. (I’m writing this comment in Spro – which is a wonderful place to get things done because they don’t play music! Very peaceful.)

  5. In recent years I’ve spent many a day trying to get work done in Hampden while our car gets serviced at Brentwood. It’s a wifi desert!

    There are plenty of other places in other neighborhoods that fit the bill for coffee-fueled freelance work, but Hampden seems to be missing an opportunity here. Most people who will sit and spend a few hours working understand they have to “pay their way” in purchases, so I don’t understand why Hampden seems reluctant to add this crucial service to good customers.

  6. I know Debra mentioned the Evergreen on Cold Spring Lane, but it is Mecca for the writers and artists in this neighborhood. Sometimes I worry that people aren’t spending enough money there to keep it open and out of the clutches of the monopolist Eddie who owns every other place on the street.

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