St. Martin’s Table to close in December

The 26-year-old Christian bookstore and café will be leaving West Bank.

Augsburg freshman Maia LeClair, left, Lauren Windhorst, center, Hannah Walsh, front right, and Katelyn Danelski, back right, meet for lunch Saturday at St. Martin’s Table on the West Bank.  The non-profit bookstore and vegetarian café is closing on December 16 after 26 years in its current location.

Chelsey Rosetter

Augsburg freshman Maia LeClair, left, Lauren Windhorst, center, Hannah Walsh, front right, and Katelyn Danelski, back right, meet for lunch Saturday at St. Martin’s Table on the West Bank. The non-profit bookstore and vegetarian café is closing on December 16 after 26 years in its current location.

Jennifer Bissell

After 26 years on the West Bank, St. MartinâÄôs Table will be closing Dec. 16, due primarily to financial hardship.
Peace activists and progressive church members have gathered at the nonprofit bookstore and vegetarian restaurant for years, some since it first opened in 1984.
âÄúYou can sit in a corner on an old creaky chair and just relax, talk, have coffee with a friend,âÄù said Nan Stevenson, who says she has visited the café every Saturday for the past 17 years. âÄúItâÄôs a meeting place âĦ I will miss it, but IâÄôll take the good with me.âÄù
Bookstore manager Kathleen Olsen said St. MartinâÄôs Table is closing for a variety of reasons.
âÄúThere comes a point that, unless you breathe a new direction and new life into something, it may be time to embrace the end,âÄù Olsen said.
Ultimately, not enough people were visiting the café, which Olsen said made sense given the economic climate, new book-buying habits and the changes in the neighborhood with the co-op grocery store next door gone and nearby parking spaces no longer free.
Plus, the store has had limited hours of operation.
âÄúItâÄôs a chance for new newness,âÄù Olsen said. âÄúI donâÄôt see the end of St. MartinâÄôs Table as being the end of places for people to gather. However, thatâÄôs the intangible of whatâÄôs been felt here.âÄù
In addition to serving up conversations and food all these years, servers at St. MartinâÄôs all work voluntarily at the café, giving their tip money to dozens of programs that work to alleviate hunger.
During the past 26 years, the servers have donated more than $700,000, Olsen said.
One waitress, Savannah Steele, said she had been volunteering at the café for 9 years, since she was 14 years old.
She stayed, she said, because she liked the social justice mission and the people.
âÄúOf course tears will be shed,âÄù Steele said. âÄúIâÄôm working our final day, and that will be probably pathetic. I will be scraping the ground.âÄù
âÄúBut there are other opportunities to serve and give and do. That wonâÄôt change,âÄù Steele said. âÄúThis is just an avenue that has expired, like old alfalfa sprouts that have to be thrown out daily.âÄù
Maia LeClair, a first-year student at Augsburg College, said she is sad to see the café go, especially since she had wanted to start volunteering as a server there.
âÄúI went on a tour for orientation, and this was one of the main stops,âÄù LeClair said. âÄúItâÄôs like this [place] is very connected to us.âÄù
In order to graduate, LeClair said students at Augsburg are required to volunteer a certain amount of hours, and St. MartinâÄôs is one place where students are encouraged to put in those hours.
âÄúI was actually really looking forward to doing that,âÄù LeClair said. âÄúMy work would be going toward something bigger than me.âÄù
Fellow Augsburg first year Hannah Walsh agreed.
âÄúIâÄôm really disappointed, especially since we just got here,âÄù Walsh said. âÄúWe only get a little time here before this place is gone.âÄù
Afro Deli and Coffee, a restaurant across the street from St. MartinâÄôs Table on Riverside Avenue, will be serving soups and desserts made with St. MartinâÄôs Table recipes to pay tribute to the restaurant after itâÄôs gone.