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Darwin's Now Owns Petsi Pies' Building

In a tale of two bakeries, Harvard Square sandwich shop Darwin’s Ltd. now owns the building occupied by another Square baked goods favorite, Petsi Pies.

Those who favor Petsi’s lemon scones and banana bread over Darwin’s egg salad and Reubens need not fear for now, though—Darwin’s will not boot Petsi’s out of its location near Mather House for at least three years.

Renee McLeod, the owner of Petsi’s, signed a five-year lease on the first floor of the 31 Putnam Ave. townhouse that houses her café in 2006, then renewed it for another five years. She had expected to renew it once more in 2015, but in September, her landlords—the Cremaldi family, who previously operated a café there themselves—put the property on sale.

McLeod tried to buy it but could not raise the money. Steven and Isabel Darwin, who operate two local sandwich stores, purchased the building instead with plans to use the space for a third outpost of theirs after McLeod’s lease expires.

McLeod still operates her first Petsi Pies in Somerville, which she has maintained since 2003.

When her lease on the Cambridge property ends, she hopes to replace the Putnam Ave. café with a different second address.

“I would love another in the same neighborhood. I like the student population because I understand the flow of it. Being in the neighborhood has become a strong part of how we work and who we are,” she said. “[The Cremaldi family] warned me and encouraged me to buy the building but, I mean, I simply don’t have the kind of money they were looking for and I wasn’t able to get it.”

Yet she recognizes the appeal that owning just one shop for a time might hold.

“When I got the opportunity to expand into Cambridge it was scary and overjoying and fun, but I really liked having the simplicity of one little bakery before. That simpler life will be a bit of a rest for me,” she said.“Who knows? Anything’s possible in three years.”

Steven Darwin, also praising smaller management, said he would hold at three shops after he eventually opens on Putnam Ave.

“I’ve talked with a lot of business owners, and the reality is that once you get past the three store arc, you need to start running your business more like corporate America. So I’m kind of thinking three is about the maximum I can do and still keep it unique and fun and funky,” said Darwin, whose first two shops each feature sandwiches on their menus with different names taken from the surrounding streets.

Looking forward to the Putnam Ave. location, Darwin expressed excitement about being able to “triangulate” Harvard Square with his three shops, each within a 10 minute’s walk of Harvard Yard.

Ella G. Gibson ’15, a Matherite, regretted that Petsi Pies would eventually be displaced. “Have you ever had the chocolate bourbon pecan pie?” she asked.

Roommate Rebecca E. Nadler ’14 found it harder to choose between Petsi’s and Darwin’s as a neighbor. “It’s a tough one. They’re both so good.”

—Staff writer Sophie T. Bearman can be reached at sbearman@college.harvard.edu.

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