QUINCY — Two old college friends have reunited in Quincy to open a restaurant specializing in lunch sandwiches, morning drinks and a welcoming atmosphere in the city’s southwest section.
Even bigger plans are in the works for neighboring buildings on the northwest corner of Eighth and State.
Caitlin Murray and Brian Stitt recently opened the Calftown Cafe at 432 S. Eighth, formerly home to Summit Spa and Fitness. The restaurant has been open for two weeks, with a grand opening set for Monday. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Murray and her husband, Douglas Peterson, own the Calftown Cafe as 8th Street Property LLC, which also recently bought the former State Theater, next door at 434 S. Eighth. Construction work on the cafe and the theater is being done by Caley Custom Construction of Quincy, owned by Andy and Dana Caley. The Caleys and the Murrays created Calftown Corners, which is listed as the owner of the former Broughton Real Estate office at 735 State. The Caleys also own multiple apartment properties further west on State Street.
Cafe owners were college friends at Washington University
Stitt and Murray were college friends during the late 2000s at Washington University in St. Louis. Stitt and his wife, Kerstin, moved to Quincy four years ago when she was a medical school student. She now is completing her residency at Blessing Hospital.
Murray worked as a partner for 10 years at a law firm in Boston, and her husband worked remotely for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I was looking for a change of pace, and with Douglas’ job, we could go anywhere,” she said. “Brian told me how great Quincy is. He talked me into moving here (in October 2018).”
The idea of opening a cafe together wasn’t part the reunion plan at first. Murray and Stitt were at home, taking care of their children.
“It was more like, ‘Just please keep me company during the day,’ ” Murray said with a laugh.
Stitt and Murray started the Wandering Calf Film Series, showing movies “you can’t see at AMC,” Murray said in Quincy’s historic Calftown neighborhood. They had showings at the State Theater, the Quincy Art Center and Salem Church.
“We met the owner of the theater, and we loved that building,” Stitt said. “That’s a wonderful building. We’re huge fans of it.”
Stitt wants people to ‘come and gather’ at cafe
When her own home got a little too crowded, Murray contacted the former owner of the theatre this summer to ask about renting space — only to learn the building was for sale, along with the former spa building.
“Then we realized this would be a perfect space for a cafe,” Murray said. “Brian has a lot of restaurant experience. He comes from a restaurant family, his parents own and run a restaurant, his brother’s a chef and his uncle is an award-winning chef.”
Murray describes the cafe as the “philosophical centerpiece” of all the plans for the Eighth and State buildings.
“This is the sort of neighborhood development we’re trying to put together,” she said. “We’re going to focus on this first, and then the State Theater. We’ve got apartments we’re fixing up, and those will be rentable soon. The other commercial spaces are going to be bringing people in. We’re just sort of taking ideas, sketching things out.”
The cafe has five permanent sandwiches on the menu, with a special or two offered occasionally. Stitt wants the cafe to be a place where people like to stay for a while.
“We’re selling food and coffee, but we want it to be an incredibly welcoming, convenient space that draws from everywhere and everyone in Quincy,” he said. “We want you to feel comfortable stopping by for a cup of coffee but also bringing your laptop or your group of friends and hanging out here for three, four hours. This is a place where you can come and gather.
“That’s true of the cafe, but we also want it to be true of the entire development.”
Former theater to continue being used as event space
Murray wants the former theater to continue being used as an event space, as well as offering it for weddings and corporate events.
“Once it’s established, maybe we can do concerts and trivia nights and things like that,” she said. “That’s a high priority for us.”
Upstairs apartments at 735 State are being renovated, with commercial space available on the first floor. A basement space, which still had bowling equipment from the 1930s, is also being remodeled. The equipment was donated to the Quincy Museum.
“We would love to have another restaurant in there,” Murray said.
Murray and Stitt laugh when they recall how quickly their business partnership has come together.
“If we had been sitting here a year ago, and you said this was where we were going to be a year from now, I would have told you that you were wrong,” Stitt said.
Now they hope to revitalize their little corner of Quincy.
“There are so many businesses around here, but there wasn’t a convenient place on foot to just grab a cup of coffee,” Stitt said. “People talked about when we first started doing this how this was an area where people would come and spend all day. You would shop at State Street Store, and you would go to all the little shops around here. You could get ice cream. People got the whole experience of being able to walk around this entire area as if it was downtown.
“We want people to come back here and walk around again in this historic neighborhood. It would be great for the businesses, and it would be great for us.”