Breathe Books in Hampden opens health cafe – Baltimore Sun
Breathe Books in Hampden announces that it will add a health cafe to its store next month. Owner Susan Weis-Bohlen says all offerings will have at least one of five features: gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, raw or Ayurvedic. Ayurveda is a type of holistic medicine that originated in India. This goes hand-in-hand with the store’s stated mission to provide “spiritual and inspirational books, music, and items to help people continue their practice and journey.”
“We won’t use white flour or white sugar; every ingredient will have some kind of nutritional quality,” said Weis-Bohlen, who also lectures on Ayurvedic medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “So we will use dates instead of white sugar – or agave or maple syrup or honey; things that contain vitamins and minerals.”
Weis-Bohlen, who opened the bookstore at the corner of Chestnut and 36th Street nine years ago, said she was almost as excited about its sources of funding as she was about the food. She was able to avoid getting a loan from a bank and instead raised $150,000 through loans and investments from friends and clients. She uses the money to build a commercial kitchen in the 1880s building and set up tables in the bookstore and on the second floor, as well as build a coffee bar on the wraparound porch.
“People who invested said, ‘Yeah, we need something like this in the community,'” she said. “And for me, that’s the most exciting part of it all.”
One such lender is Winstead “Ted” Rouse, founder of Big City Farms and son of the late developer James Rouse.
“I’m very excited about the food they plan to make and I don’t think there’s anything like it in Baltimore,” Rouse said. “I love helping local businesses because they’re much more likely to recirculate our dollars back to our cities and charities. It’s really a three bottom line business: people, planet, profit.”
Bill Clarke, who sits on the boards of the Open Society Institute and public radio station WYPR, is another lender.
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“I’ve been a client of his bookstore and have invested in Baltimore before and it looks like it has great potential for Baltimore’s redevelopment as we look for opportunities to bring businesses back to Baltimore and people back to Baltimore and make it stronger,” he said. “George Soros invests $70 million in Baltimore [through OSI] and these kinds of things need to be done to transform a city and help it prosper. My zeros are a lot less than his but it’s the same concept.”
Staff will include Renee and Don Gorman, who ran the Puffins health food restaurant in Pikesville and currently has a popular food stall at the Waverly Farmer’s Market, and pastry chef Joanne Goshen, formerly of the former Louie’s Bookstore Cafe. .
“These are people who have been living this lifestyle for decades already,” Weis-Bohlen said. “It’s not a fad, it’s their passion.”
Hampden business owners said they were happy to see the bookstore expanding its offerings.
“I am delighted that Breathe Books is growing and diversifying, I think it makes a lot of sense and is a good choice,” said Benn Ray, chairman of the Hampden Village Merchants Association. “I know block 800 [of The Avenue] has long felt the need for more dining options, and this is definitely a step towards meeting that need.”
Weis-Bohlen said she plans to open in mid-May.
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