In the Sparrow Cafe, one wall is devoted to a stunning mural of birds and blossoms, done by the same people who did the cheetahs on the wall along the Hiawatha light rail line. The bakery case holds raspberry macaroons made with rosewater cream. But what's really eye-catching are the "Happy Anniversary" balloons floating in the window facing Penn Av. S.
Sparrow Cafe is the third coffee shop since 2011 to hang its sign above the space at the corner of Penn and W. 50th St., where a traffic signal, turning buses, a consignment clothing shop, a paperback book store and the three Broder's restaurants would seem to indicate an environment where a coffee shop could thrive.
But even the new owners, Jasper and Sheila Rajendren, walked away from the site when it last became available in 2012. Parking was a problem, there was unappealing siding outside and the windows were small. But those got resolved (the parking is more obvious and available, Jasper Rajendren said). They've extended their hours, and business has been steady. They celebrated their first anniverary Jan. 1.
So what's with the birds?
But, since the coffee shop business is so competitive, why not an eagle, or a hawk? Wouldn't "Cormorant Cafe" have a nice ring to it?
"We really just wanted to emphasize the community aspect," Jasper Rajendren said. "Sparrows are the ultimate metropolitan urban bird. They're just out there struggling, too."