By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that in the last few days,” said John Hasson, who opened the cafe last week after a two-year period of the space being vacant.
“It was such a part of the community.”
“When anyone walked in, we knew their names and what they wanted,” said Korina Maher, who worked at the cafe for several years and has returned as its manager.
“We served the locals. It was the town bakery.”
The cafe, at 211 Tyler St. in the back corner of the Palace Hotel, was first opened in 1999 by Tim Roth and Marina Willenhag, and became the default coffee hangout for locals.
Roth sold the business in 2007, and it was operated by two less-successful owners before closing in September 2010.
Now, Hasson is attempting to recapture the spirit of the original cafe, which had its heyday in a time that preceded the now popular Undertown and Better Living Through Coffee.
The cafe’s main attraction was its high-quality pastries, and this tradition is carried on by the owner’s wife, Anca Hasson, who has built a reputation with her pastries, which are popular staples at farmers markets and in local supermarkets, said her husband.
Anca Hasson, who is from Romania, provides a different, lighter taste than the Crisco-laden products that are often found in supermarkets and restaurants, he said.
The cafe, which had a “soft opening” Wednesday, already has drawn back many old customers.
“When I took this place over about six weeks ago, it was a mess, and I started cleaning it out from the front to the back,” John Hasson said.
“While I was doing that, so many people stopped by — from tourists who were here three years ago and remembered the place to locals who were happy to see it open again.”
Another surprise arrived in the mail Wednesday: a certificate from the Peninsula Daily News honoring the cafe as a finalist for “Best Coffee” in the Best of the Peninsula 2012 readers’ poll, even though it has been closed for two years.
John Hasson is not attempting to duplicate the cafe’s old menu but will continue its reputation of serving fresh, local food.
“If there is any space that screams ‘Port Townsend,’ it’s this little space,” Hasson said.
“It’s cozy, friendly and inviting.”
He doesn’t feel that he is competing with other like-minded restaurants in the neighborhood but is instead offering a complementary service.
“There are a lot of high-quality artisans in this town,” he said.
“You can’t get any better bread than at Pane d’Amore, and Sweet Laurette’s does some amazing things.
“And we will have a lot of things that you can’t get at Undertown and Better Living Through Coffee.”
“In a small town where businesses compete, it can be a struggle,” Maher said.
“The difference now is that we have a drive to succeed here that was missing with the last two owners.”
The Tyler Street Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.