Day and night thirst quencher Coming: The Xando chain of coffeehouse-bars is about to make its Baltimore debut, in Charles Village.

November 17, 1998|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Xando, a chain of European-style, coffee-and-cocktail bars planning to double its East Coast presence, will open the first of at least five Baltimore area cafes in December, becoming the first retailer at the Johns Hopkins University's new Hopkins Square market in Charles Village.

Capitalizing on '90s coffee culture with a twist -- coffeehouses that transform into bars at night and serve up Mocha Kiss coffee drinks and S'mores -- the company has spread from its Connecticut base to New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

Xando Inc., which got its start four years ago in Hartford, now runs 12 cafes, with another 20 slated for next year.

By early December, Xando will bring its eclectic brand of coffeehouse to Hopkins Square, the retail portion of the redeveloped Homewood Apartments dormitory and office building on North Charles Street.

The first floor and terrace level space will house up to seven retailers with entrances fronting on Charles Street, including two more restaurants.

By March, the second Xando will open in Towson Circle, the former Hutzler's department store in Towson being redeveloped with a Barnes & Noble megastore, which opens today, a Pier 1 Imports, and other stores.

The Baltimore-based Cordish Co., developing both projects, is seeking three more sites for Xando.

Xando Chairman Andy Stenzler said he is interested in possibly locating at the Inner Harbor as part of a revamped Chart House restaurant.

Preliminary plans call for the Chart house, one of the first Inner Harbor restaurants, to undergo a major renovation, possibly next year, though the chain has not finalized plans, said Todd Jarvis, general manager for the restaurant on Pier 4.

Starbucks an indicator

Xando, also opening several locations this year in Florida, typically looks for strong demographics in areas where coffeehouse giant Starbucks has a strong presence -- and has created strong consumer demand, Stenzler said.

"Starbucks created the true, traditional coffee bar, and worked on the premise that people go to coffee bars to get away from liquor," Stenzler said. "We said that's not true. There are not enough outlets away from the computer and the remote control to congregate.

"The atmosphere people need is different in the morning than it is at night."

Each location boasts the chain's trademark bold colors and an all-day menu of panini and sandwich wraps and soups. But the similarities stop there, with decor tailored to particular neighborhoods.

By day, customers will find a laid-back, coffeehouse atmosphere, with comfortable couches, local artwork, and an array of lattes, cappuccinos and scones. At 4 p.m., the lights dim, the music goes upbeat and a wall mural is raised to reveal the liquor stock -- the base for coffee drinks such as the mocha martini.

"Our goal is to be every person's favorite place for coffee and community," Stenzler said. "We're trying to be the place where you get your morning coffee, meet friends, have business meetings, relax and read a book."

Xando's opening in Charles Village, with seating for more than 100 and another 50 outside, kicks off the development of 30,000-square-feet of retail space in Homewood Apartments.

Hopkins redeveloped the rest of the six-story brick building a year ago with 119 student apartments on the third to sixth floors, office space for the Center for Social Organization of Schools on the second floor and university offices on part of the first floor.

"The hope is to attract well-known retailers that provide services that the students would find valuable and that would be valuable to the Charles Village community, things like music and clothes and food," said Steve Libowitz, a Hopkins spokesman. "One of the issues has been there's not a lot of retail in the community for students."

At one point, a bookstore was considered for the site. But the university has requested bids from retailers for a larger bookstore farther north on Charles Street that would serve both the campus and the neighborhood.

Mix of tenants

The developer expects a unique, sophisticated mix of tenants, "to create something active during the day and night," said Blake L. Cordish, a Cordish vice president.

"What the community is missing is a commercial hub, what most of the communities and universities of that stature have and what we're trying to provide."

Pub Date: 11/17/98

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