|By Rick Winterson
Stop in on Saturday. Wish Cathe Walsh a Happy Tenth Anniversary. Treat yourself to a “coffee and …”, and you will be helping out Southie Kids Care.
It doesn’t seem that long to Cathe Walsh. She looks back on a period of time that seems drastically foreshortened. “It’s been ten beautiful years”, she says.
During this interview, Cathe laughs about how naïve she was. She needed a new career, but there were requirements. Cathe had worked as waitstaff for many years, so something in foodservice seemed to make sense. Her daughters, Elaine and Marrisa, were quite young; they had to be picked up after school. A nearby jobsite and flexible hours were musts. Simply looking at the “help wanted” ads in the Sunday papers wasn’t going to get her what she wanted (and needed).
So, Cathe took a deep breath, then put her imagination to work on the space she had available at 704 Broadway, and decided to open a place to eat. According to her, “I had no idea what I was doing.” With a credit card in one hand and her ambition in the other, she created Cranberry Café.
Over the last ten years, almost everyone in South Boston has dropped into Cranberry Café at least a few times. Many have become regulars – so regular that Cathe and her waitstaff know what they want the moment they walk in the door.
There are some touches worth noticing. The pressed metal ceiling is a true artifact that is increasingly rare in Boston’s establishments. The menus posted by hand in back of the counter evoke an old-style inn. And the use of the cranberry accents? Did you know that dark reds are conducive to eating?
Cranberry Café has gone through some hard times. As anyone who has started a new business will tell you, it’s no bed of roses. In fact, any startup is a 24/7 operation in its early years, and it carries a high risk. Over half of new enterprises don’t make it past the fifth year.
Cathe recalls the parking crackdown, which took place after the fatal fire on Bowen Street. That temporarily cut her morning business nearly in half. Some other financial issues came to a head at the same time, so she almost went under. With help and encouragement from family and her many, many friends, she took a second deep breath, put together the financing, and renovated Cranberry Café.
Among Cathe’s most loyal supporters is her father. He not only preps and cooks (sample his spare ribs sometime), he also does the buying, which is his pride and joy. And anyone in foodservice will attest to the importance of careful purchasing.
Cathe and Cranberry Café are now on the other side of the white water rapids. Stop in and see her on Saturday, March 11. Cathe’s a people-person. She takes no nonsense (or prisoners), but her patrons are always glad to see her. And she plans to donate a portion of her Tenth Anniversary Day proceeds to Mo Hanley’s “Southie Kids Care” group.
Like most entrepreneurs, Cathe still has dreams. She is intrigued by the possibility of turning the Café into a restaurant in the evening. After breakfast and lunch, out will come the tablecloths and candles, along with a limited menu. Hey, we’ll see – keep an eye out.
In the meantime, stop in for coffee, a friendly word, and something to eat. Cathe’s “wicked smaht”, and her Mom still makes soups-to-die-for. You may even be able to figure out where the light switch to the rest room is.