Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A barista pauses while fulfilling an order Wednesday at the Darwins Ltd. location at 313 Massachusetts Ave., The Port. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Baristas at Darwin’s Ltd. said Wednesday that all four locations in the local coffee shop chain are being shut down permanently before Christmas.

A statement from founders and owners Steven and Isabel Darwin confirmed that the chain is shutting down.

“We thank the thousands of employees, customers and the City of Cambridge for allowing and supporting the 30-year experience and success of our family-owned business. Upon further reflection we have decided to retire from this line of work,” the Darwins said.

The closing of the original location in Harvard Square, which opened in 1993, was announced last month, with the Darwins urging support for “Darwin’s ownership and its staff” at the remaining locations.

Sam White, a barista at Darwin’s Ltd. on Cambridge Street, speaks Oct. 30 at a union rally at Cambridge City Hall. (Photo: Marc Levy)

But the staff of roughly 50 was gathered Tuesday, less than two weeks from the announcement of a closing at 148 Mount Auburn St., Harvard Square, and told that every Darwin’s would soon be closed, baristas said. That includes at 1629 Cambridge St., Mid-Cambridge; 313 Massachusetts Ave., The Port; and 31 Putnam Ave., Riverside.

Messages were left Tuesday with Sam White, a barista at the Cambridge Street location and a leader of the union that formed among workers starting Sept. 15, 2021. White did not respond immediately.

White said at an Oct. 30 rally at City Hall against the coming layoffs that the Darwins’ 30-year lease in Harvard Square ran until the end of December, but Steve Darwin planned to leave a month early to make way for the next tenant – a bakery, but not one that was hiring Darwins Ltd. workers. (Update on Nov. 29, 2022: Despite the description as a bakery, a sign has been posted in the Darwin’s window in Harvard Square for a business called “Roust Coffee.”)

Customers at the Darwins Ltd. location in The Port on Wednesday. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The Darwins said they were “awaiting a response from the union for a pending closure date” at three locations but had “received an official closing date from the union” of Nov. 22 for the site in Harvard Square.

Last month, workers at Darwin’s called the closing in Harvard Square an attempt by the owners to union bust. One of the baristas speaking Wednesday expressed belief again that the owner was tired of dealing with the union but also had no plans to sell the business. What would happen to the four locations’ equipment was unclear, the barista said. Steve Darwin, asked for further information about the closings, said Wednesday that he could not add anything “at this time.”

The union would try to bargain for two weeks severance or more, a barista said. Members had been seeking pay of $24 an hour, three weeks of paid time off and zero-deductible health care.


Alex Bowers contributed to this report.