Louie's The Bookstore Cafe is being sold N.Y. couple to take over from Jimmy Rouse, who opened restaurant in 1981

March 05, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Louie's The Bookstore Cafe, which has fed the minds and appetites of Baltimoreans since 1981, is being sold to a New York couple.

"I've been doing Louie's for so long now that it's become repetitive," owner Jimmy Rouse, 52, said last evening over a cup of green tea at the restaurant's bar in the 500 block of N. Charles St. in Mount Vernon. "I need to devote more time to this neighborhood."

The prospective new owners -- John DeLauro, 35, and his wife, Catherine Ronalds-DeLauro, 31 -- have arrived in Baltimore and settled into a Franklin Street apartment. They spent the past week observing Louie's, which is popular with Peabody Conservatory students and those who enjoy browsing in its bookstore.

After the sale is complete, Rouse, the son of the developer of Columbia and Harborplace, said he plans to focus his energy on an ambitious plan to redevelop the Charles Street corridor from Fayette to Centre streets.

"The biggest obstacle to this neighborhood is the skepticism of Baltimoreans," he said.

"Like so many things that happened here over the years, the sale grew out of a conversation with a customer."

That customer was Hugh Ronalds, a Bolton Hill resident whose daughter Catherine was catering manager at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York. She had worked earlier at the Plaza on the Green and the 21 Club.

Her husband, John DeLauro, had been director of business development for Project Finance magazine.

"There's nothing that needs to be changed or fixed right away," DeLauro said. "We're now studying the people here, the buzz of the place."

"As my father said to me, 'Jimmy has created a wonderful work of art in Louie's,' " said Ronalds-DeLauro.

They plan to keep the restaurant's special food items, especially its Chicken Chestertown, a Rouse family dish.

"My father came from Easton, but we thought that Chicken Easton didn't sound as good as Chicken Chestertown," Rouse said.

Rouse named the restaurant-bookstore after his son Louie, who was 6 in 1981.

Louie Rouse now is a senior in college and is earning a degree in Chinese in a program offered by Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College.

Jimmy Rouse declined to divulge the sale price but said he will continue as owner of the real estate.

He also said he will finance the transaction.

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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