Donna's in Charles Village to close on Jan. 24 [UPDATED]

The Charles Village location of local coffee bar and restaurant Donna's will close on Jan 24, after nearly 18 years of operation.

Co-owner Alan Hirsch told City Paper in a phone interview that declining business and the cost of a much-needed renovation of the space contributed to the decision to close.

"We had a good run. We had good years and not-so-good years," he said, adding that fixing the restaurant up would have been a "big project and we didn't have the resources or time."

Hirsch acknowledged that the arrival of chains, such as Chipotle and Potbelly, along St. Paul Street in recent years, and improving food offerings at Johns Hopkins University, cut into the restaurant's lunch business.

Even so, the restaurant still had a large group of loyal customers from the Charles Village neighborhood.

"We had tremendous support for a very long time, and we really value that," he said.

About 40-50 percent of the employees at the Charles Village Donna's, according to Hirsch's estimate, will receive shifts at either Donna's in Cross Keys or Cosima, a new restaurant Hirsch and Donna's namesake Donna Crivello are opening in the Mill No. 1 apartment building near the Jones Falls. The restaurant is planning to open in February, according to its Facebook page.

The duo opened the first Donna's in the 1992. Located in the Park Plaza Building near the Washington Monument, the coffee bar came at a time when, as Richard Gorelick noted in a 2013 Sun story, cafe culture seemed to be expanding everywhere in the country but Baltimore.

The concept quickly caught on, and Donna's eventually expanded to "four Donna's Cafes, two full-scale restaurants, a sandwich shop and a couple of coffee kiosks in malls," Gorelick wrote.

All that remains is Cross Keys. Hirsch said their lease there was recently renewed and that a renovation of the space is in the works.

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