The Story of Karzai and His Station North Restaurants
Qayum Karzai owns many restaurants, but some of the most prominent restaurants he owns are located right in the center of Baltimore’s, Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Less than a year ago he opened his newest addition to his group of restaurants, Pen & Quill. Pen & Quill is located at the corner of Charles and Lanvale Street, at 1701 North Charles Street, and just north of Penn Station. Interestingly, it is located right next door to another one of his own restaurants, Tapas Teatro. Unlike Pen & Quill, which was only opened this past July, Tapas Teatro opened up in 2001. Ever since it’s opening has had much success. Tapas Teatro located right next to the famous Charles Theatre, allows many to go from a watching a great movie to grabbing something delicious to eat. When opening Pen & Quill, Karzai continued to use his initial staff, the manager of Tapas Teatro, Jared Cozart was involved in the project, also his kids were in the project. Helmand Karzai, who was working at his fathers’ restaurants and helping to run it with his mom, Patricia, was also working on the Pen & Quill Project. Both Helmand and Patricia help to run the restaurants.
Karzai’s restaurant career might have flourished with restaurants like Tapas Teatro, but he started out average. In 2001, Tapas Teatro was not the start of Karzais restaurant career. Qayum had worked as a busboy and waiter in a restaurant prior to opening his own restaurant. He learned the in’s and out of the restaurant business while working in them. He had opened up his first restaurant, many miles away, in Chicago with one of his brothers. The restaurant was a success from day one. However his wife and kids were here, so eventually he decided to come back. His decision on returning never really did end his life in the restaurant business; in 1989 Qayum opened up an Afghan restaurant, called The Helmand, at 806 North Charles Street. From there he began his journey in the restaurant business. Since he was already a politician, and his brother was Afghanistan’s president, he did have to go back and forth between Afghanistan and here, but that did not stop him or his family from continuing to have a success in the restaurant business and continue to open up new restaurants all through Baltimore. Tapas Teatro was the second restaurant he opened in 2001. The restaurant went well so in 2003, Karzai opened up a Bolton Hill Bistro. Now in 2014, he opened up Pen & Quill, his most recent entrepreneurial endeavor. He never offered similar cuisine in any of his restaurants, therefore engulfing different cultural experiences for people trying food from all three. The Helmand serves Afghani cuisine, while Tapas Teatro serves Spanish cuisine and the Pen & Quill serves Maryland cuisine. All of his establishments are different, and all a success since everyone gets some different type of cuisine at each of his restaurants. There is more to these establishments than just their success that we may know of; there is a history to them, especially Pen & Quill located at Station North.
If you lived in Baltimore your entire life, then you may have heard of the Chesapeake Restaurant. The restaurant that served with great success for about 50 years, was located where Pen & Quill has now opened, that location being historic has left its mark on many peoples memory even today. Prior to the 1900s, 1701-1709 North Charles Street had five brownstone buildings on it. It used to be a living space where several tenants could live. In the early 1900s Hasslinger’s, who changed its name to Walker Hasslinger and Mariner’s Nook Bar opened, opened up at this location. Then in 1913, Morris Friedman had come to America and opened a storefront type grocery store. It was a new idea at the time, but finally five years later, he purchased the location (1701-09 North Charles Street). Then starting in 1933 this location got its fame.
In 1933, Friedman decided to open up the Chesapeake Restaurant, serving seafood. This restaurant became a success in no time, especially after Morris’s son, Sidney, took over and ran the business. Sidney Friedman had taken a trip to Chicago and tasted steak that he thought was very tasty, so he learned how to make it and brought the recipe back to the Chesapeake Restaurant. He made it such a success, that the restaurant got many awards, and much business. Philip Friedman (son of Morris) was young at the time, but he always watched Sidney at the restaurant and would help out in the restaurant, and according to him “Sidney was a second father to him.” The rest of Morris’s family (son Norman, and Richard (Norman’s son) came and joined the business. Philip and Philip’s son Donald were already helping in the business. Donald had expanded, opening up another restaurant in Baltimore, while Philip continued to work at the Chesapeake. A business that was running so well, many people coming to it, in a great location, no one would think that one day a fire would begin and destroy parts of the restaurant. It took a lot of money/loans to repair however, in 1983, nine years after that fire, loans were still not paid, Sidney was growing old, and Norman was losing interest, so the restaurant was set up for auctioning. Philip and Donald Friedman bought it from the rest of his family, did some repairs, and then reopened the restaurant, this time calling it The Original Chesapeake Restaurant. Only a few years of remaining open, the restaurant was forced to apply for bankruptcy since loans were not being paid off fast enough. The Friedman’s said that even though the restaurant was bringing in a profit they were forced to close. In 1986, this forced bankruptcy closed down the restaurant and it was auctioned off to a Baltimore Attorney, Robert Sapero. He tried to reopen the restaurant, but after failing he kept the restaurant closed for 25 years!!!
In 2008, Robert Sapero had to sell the property to the city, since he never reopened it or sold it. The historic site was sold for $2.5 million using the Baltimore Development Corporation! In 2010, the property was sold once again for $2.5 million to Ernst Valery. Valery and Michael Shecter decided to remodel it and reopen a restaurant, called The Chesapeake Restaurant. According to the contract they signed they were not allowed to remodel anything until $1.5 million was paid. Qayum Karzai was supposedly also in the deal, except he backed down just before signing, which led the restaurant to be managed by Valery and his family. The restaurant did not go as well and within less than a year of opening it closed. From there it went into the hands of Qayum Karzai, this time leaving the name of Chesapeake behind. Karzai renovated the restaurant all together, including changing the name, but he still left clues of the Chesapeake Restaurant origins. The name of the bar in the Chesapeake Restaurant was Pen & Quill, hence the name of the new restaurant opened, Pen & Quill. A site that even today is famous for the Chesapeake Restaurant that people still talk about it when eating at Tapas Teatro, Helmand Karzai said. It was about a century ago this location was run by the owners of the famous Chesapeake, and a century later the Karzai family is now running it. The location and restaurant was a success then under the Friedman Family, and it has a successful start now under the Karzai family.