Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Keeping it positive and inclusive at Remington’s sweet spot

By Robyn Githui

Sweet 27 has been a staple in the Remington neighborhood for over eight years. When I arrived at the café on West 27th Street, the bright orange and yellow exterior stood out in this otherwise residential area. Over the years, the funky exterior colors have changed, but the overall atmosphere has not. Although Sweet 27 is mainly known for its eclectic, gluten-free menu, its employee-friendly practices and community-first philosophy also set it apart.

Sweet 27’s dedication to employees and community is a reflection of its history. Sweet 27 started out as Meet 27 under former owner Richard D’Souza, who started the restaurant, as well as an adjoining bakery/café that share’s the restaurant’s name, to help meet the needs of people with dietary restrictions. All of the food is gluten-free, and many items on the menu are soy and dairy-free as well, making it one of the most diet-inclusive establishments in the city.

When I first met Suraj Bhatt, the current owner of Sweet 27, he was warm, welcoming, and in the midst of running the business’ day-to-day operations. When Bhatt first started working as a cashier at Sweet 27, he did not know that he would become a partner and eventual owner of one of Baltimore’s most interesting restaurants in less than a decade. Like D’Souza, Bhatt allows his employees to try and take on different roles in the business, like one server who is learning how to do some of the managerial work. He also encourages his workers to perfect their skills outside of work, through school and nearby English classes at Strong City Baltimore’s Adult Learning Center. Following in D’Souza’s footsteps, Bhatt supports his employees by giving them the time and opportunities to grow. He understands that many of his employees won’t work with him forever, and that is OK. Bhatt’s employee-friendly business model has attracted a lot of attention, and Sweet 27 will be recognized in Civic Works’ upcoming Good Business Works initiative, which highlights local businesses for their commitment to high-quality workforce practices.

During my time at the café, Bhatt greeted all of the customers who came in and expressed an enormous amount of gratitude for the Remington community, which he credits for the establishment’s success. Sweet 27 is known for its easygoing atmosphere, but it has gone through its share of challenges, including the change in ownership. Despite this, Bhatt focuses on positivity and insists that “Everything goes in a circle.” The customers and employees support Sweet 27, so Sweet 27 supports and helps uplift them. It’s mutually beneficial, and everyone benefits from their place in the community.

Sweet 27 supports its community in a couple of ways. Sweet 27 hosts fundraisers as a fun way to help people and build community. (It has hosted Strong City Baltimore fundraisers in the past, including a recent one to benefit the 29th Street Community Center.) It’s not always easy for smaller, local businesses to donate money, but Bhatt recognizes that the community fuels his business and that it is important to give back in some way. Anyone is welcome to inquire about having a fundraiser at the eatery.

Another way that Sweet 27 supports its community is by championing cultural awareness and inclusivity, through its menu and its values. Last year, Sweet 27, along with a few other Baltimore-area restaurants, participated in “A Day Without Immigrants.”  The day was a part of the broader movement demanding fair and inclusive immigration policies. The decision to close was a collective one. Many of Sweet 27’s employees and customers are immigrants, and they were inspired to participate as a way to show solidarity and support for immigrant rights.

Strong City Baltimore’s neighborhood work embraces community wealth building, an approach to economic development that puts residents and communities first, valuing equity, inclusion, and sustainability. One way that that we support community wealth building in Baltimore is by spotlighting exemplary businesses that are making their communities better. For more information about Strong City’s community wealth building philosophy, click here.


Sponsor Spotlight: Seawall Development Company

The GHCC Blog Team recently checked in with Thibault Manekin of Seawall Development Company to talk about the importance of community-driven development and how Seawall is making Baltimore a Strong City. 

Tell us a bit about Seawall Development… Seawall uses the built environment to make neighborhoods better places. We do that by breathing a new life back in to abandoned old historic and industrial buildings. We then take the finished product and fill it with the people who in their everyday lives are out there making our cities better places.

Seawall has been instrumental in the redevelopment of Remington, and GHCC has been proud to be your partner in this work, can you explain your approach to community-minded development? It’s all about listening. None of these projects are our idea. We pride ourselves on developing projects from the inside out, where the end user is actually dreaming up their own space.

Miller's Court was one of Sewall's first Remington projects and now houses low-cost living options for teachers, Charmington's Cafe,  and a variety of nonprofits including Wide Angle Youth Media.

Miller’s Court was one of Sewall’s first Remington projects and now houses low-cost living options for teachers, Charmington’s Cafe, and a variety of nonprofits including Wide Angle Youth Media.

Tell us about some of your upcoming or current projects. We are really busy in Remington with our Remington Row project. We are also really excited about some charter schools we are helping to build and the Parkway Theatre project in Station North.

Why did Seawall choose to sponsor the 2015 Neighborhood Institute? We love GHCC and the great work they do in this part of Baltimore and are honored to be a partner in anything they are doing.

As you may know, GHCC is changing our name to ‘Strong City Baltimore’… tell us what you think makes Baltimore a Strong City. Baltimore is strong because of the passionate people that make up this great city and their never give up attitude.

Many, many thanks to Thibault and the whole Seawall team for sponsoring the 2015 Neighborhood Institute at the Baltimore Design School back in April. If you would like to sponsor a Strong City Baltimore event, please contact Emma Simpson at esimpson@strongcitybaltimore.org or 410-261-3507.


2700 Hampden Avenue gets a makeover

Last weekend, over 20 neighbors on the 2700 block of Hampden Avenue in Remington came together for a community work day. The objective? To enhance curb appeal and strengthen the block where they live.

2700 Hampden Block Project

In less than two hours, this block was transformed into a lush and vibrant space where parents feel more comfortable letting their children play. We planted nine trees and installed new porch lights on five houses. In addition, eight homeowners will receive new stained glass address plaques, courtesy of Wholly Terra in Hampden.

Earlier this year, GHCC met with residents to determine their vision for what this block could look like. Once the desired improvements were decided on, GHCC staff applied for and received a grant of $2,500 from Healthy Neighborhoods to help bring the project to fruition (2700 Hampden residents are contributing an average of $50 apiece of their own funds).

We invite you to come check out the new and improved 2700 block of Hampden Avenue. It’s a great example of the kind of collaborative efforts that strengthen neighborhoods block by block to enhance the overall quality of life in Baltimore.


Race to win a Charm City Cake!

Saturday, May 11 –2nd Annual Day to Play featuring Race Thru Remington – 2pm-5pm – $15 – Held at Wyman Park. Amazing Race-style contest with great prizes from BMA/Charm City Cakes. Also includes food, drink, music, bike tour, kids activities, field games. Register online or pay at the door.

We’re getting really excited about our 2nd Annual Day to Play featuring the first ever Race Thru Remington this Saturday, May 11. It’s an Amazing Race-style game that challenges players to find hidden clues at the local restaurants, businesses, and residences that make the neighborhood of Remington a Baltimore gem!

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After about six months of preparation, sussing out the best locations, and generating a list of clues, we recruited a volunteer – Charles Village resident Erin Ewald – to do a test run of the race on her bike. Here are her thoughts.

Well, how was it?

I’m a big fan of scavenger hunts, so this was right up my alley. Of course we got lost a couple of times – but that’s part of the fun! It was great to pedal around Remington on a spring day and find little corners of the neighborhood that I didn’t know about before. Not to give away anything, but there are some really quirky streets to visit!

What should people expect when participating in the Race?

It’s basically a scavenger hunt around Remington that hits a lot of landmarks that are important to the community. You get clues, and then you have to find all the locations and complete a task once you find the spot. It’s a good way to get a little more familiar with the neighborhood – you’ll do some circling and backtracking, but by the end you will probably know Remington better than most!

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Without giving anything away, could you tell us something new you learned about the neighborhood?

My favorite place we visited was an eclectic little street that was full of decorations and plants and inspirational quotes… and velvet Jesus YOLO artwork. It’s really cool to find little mini-communities like this one inside the larger neighborhood.

Any last minute “insider” tips?

Ride your bike! The race takes you to lots of places, and it’s much easier to pedal around the neighborhood than to walk.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Race (there’s free beer from Peabody Heights Brewery involved if you are), send an email to events@strongcitybaltimore.org.


Healthy Neighborhoods Featured Home – 2717 Atkinson

With plenty of natural light, 2717 Atkinson St is a gardener’s dream and it has been recently reduced by $10k! Located in Remington, 2717 Atkinson is convenient to public transportation, services in Hampden, and a variety of public and private schools.

This 3 bedroom/1 bath home is 1,232 square-foot home is currently listed for $139,450 and, because it’s located on a Healthy Neighborhoods Target Block.

For more information about this unique row house complete with new carpets and renovated kitchen, check out its MLS Listing.

Interested in how the Healthy Neighborhoods program can help you become a homeowner or get the delightful urban home of your dreams? Contact Andre Stone (click to email or call 410-261-3511) for the full details. Andre can talk to you on the phone, send you more information about how to apply for a Healthy Neighborhoods grant or loan, or even set up a meeting with you to discuss your options.