by Petula Caesar
Last night I was watching a documentary on Netflix about how Chipotle got started. Steve Ells, a culinary school graduate, wanted to open a fine dining restaurant over a decade ago. He decided to do a casual dining spot to start out, and to use the revenue from that to fund his fancy place. His dad gave him $80,000 and with a commitment to healthy fresh ingredients and well-prepared food — “food with integrity” he calls it now, Chipotle was born. It is now a $12 billion dollar a year company that still maintains that commitment to fresh ingredients, well-prepared food, and a desire to support its surrounding communities in positive ways.
Baltimore’s answer to Chipotle and Steve Ells is Terra Cafe and Terence Dickson.
Terra Cafe, located at 101 East 25th Street in Baltimore is owned by Terence Dickson and has been around for about five years. While probably best known for wonderfully fresh and well prepared food (especially great greens and a fish sandwich that brings tears to your eyes once your mouth has experienced its awesomeness,) Terra Cafe has come to be more to the community that just a place to grab a bite to eat. From its “Neighbors Without Walls” program where Terra Cafe spearheads, organizes, and distributes supplies, food, and a kind word to homeless Baltimoreans every second Sunday of the month, to its “Artists Refuge” program which lets performance artists of all kinds display their skills, to being the home for kinds of open mic events and shows, to employing local residents who have found entering the workforce challenging, to the locally-created artwork that covers the walls of the space, Terra Cafe has been a place that has nourished Baltimore with more than just amazing fish sandwiches and awesome greens. It has fed this city’s spirit too, and has done so with humility and with integrity as embodied by Mr. Dickson’s dedication to Terra Cafe and to this city, especially its underground arts, entertainment and culture scenes.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It is extremely difficult to run your own business successfully. This is especially true of restaurants, which have an even higher failure rate than other types of businesses. Typically small businesses in general don’t make it past their third birthday, and restaurants often don’t get to their second, so at five years old Terra Cafe seemed poised to be a bona-fide success story. But the Polar Vortex had other plans, and the obscenely cold winter we’ve experienced in this area caused Terra Cafe’s business to be reduced. That coupled with the rising costs of gas and electricity during this time caused Terra Cafe to shut it doors.
Fortunately, Mr. Dickson isn’t one to throw up his hands and give up. He has asked the community that he has so generously supported to support Terra Cafe during this troubled time.
I strongly encourage you to donate to the “Power Up Terra Cafe” GoFundMe account. Mr. Dickson is seeking to raise $10,000, and as of this morning was a third of the way to his goal — but he still has a long way to go. You can click on this link for details, and help us help Mr. Dickson and Terra Cafe continue to feed this city in every way.