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Return of the Volunteer Park Cafe

Volunteer Park Cafe is set to return — with pizza… and more (Image: Volunteer Park Cafe)

The deal to buy the Volunteer Park Cafe and the old house turned neighborhood market it calls home is on hold. But it is not exactly back on the market, either. Here’s what is certain.

After weeks of a COVID-19 restrictions-forced shutdown at 17th and Galer, the cafe is being readied for a Mother’s Day return to business and a renewed effort to serve its northern Capitol Hill neighborhood with baked goods, to go meals, and provisions.

“The deal not going through made me put my boxing gloves back on,” owner Ericka Burke tells CHS. “I’m trying to make it work.”

For Burke, making it work means swinging back into motion just in time for special Mom’s Day brunch offerings including family style strata with arugula salad and mimosa packages — “serves 6!”

She’ll follow that with a new schedule with the cafe acting as a kind of neighborhood bottle shop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays along with sheet pan pizzas and a selection of fresh produce for sale. Thursdays through Sundays, the cafe will operate in a more familiar fashion with morning hours and the return of its baked goods, pastries, and coffee. Burke says she also plans to increase the options for “to go” meals like mac and cheese and pot pies in family style and picnic provisions but is planning a “slow build” return to business as she sorts out what will work.

That doesn’t mean the cafe won’t eventually have a new owner. Burke describes her plans to sell as “up in the air.” She had been looking for the “right offer, and right buyer” — “someone I was going to pass the torch to,”

Neighbors noticed this week when the real estate listing switched from “pending” back to “active” that something had changed. CHS reported in March just as the outbreak was shifting into full crisis mode on plans from new owners to purchase the property and take over the cafe.

Alisha Chou, part of the partnership with Andria Millie that was planning to acquire the $1.7 million property and cafe business, said she is still hopeful a deal will be worked out. “After this all settles, Andria and I still do have plans to buy the business,” she said.

For now, Burke is focused on restarting VPC and taking a more streamlined approach to her business. With help from the Paycheck Protection Program, she can now bring cafe employees back to work. And she’s hopeful the new approach will click and help her find more time to enjoy life at 17th and Galer beyond her cafe.

“I’m a single mom with a 10-year-old boy,” she said. “I want to be home more.”

And, like a lot of us right now, she’s looking for optimism where she can find it.

“If there is a silver lining in this,’ she says, “all of us, having to look at our business models currently and adjust to the current climate, it is a great opportunity to change.”

Volunteer Park Cafe is located at 1501 17th Ave E. You can learn more at alwaysfreshgoodness.com or check the VPC Instagram for the latest updates on hours and offerings.


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6 months ago

If someone offered me $1.7m I know what I would do…