Walk into any of the 12 Tatte cafes in Boston, and you’ll encounter the same aesthetic: black and white subway tiles lining the floor. Marbled bistro tables. Low-hanging lights. In the 11 years since the first Tatte opened in Brookline, the cafe has become one of Boston’s most recognizable and quickly expanding local businesses. Tatte founder Tzurit Or has no plans to slow down.
On the heels of its first downtown location welcoming customers in January, Tatte opened a second downtown location on Monday morning inside One Boston Place, a 41-story tower in the Financial District. Location No. 13 will serve customers inside the former Back Bay Beats space at Berklee College of Music beginning the first week of June, and Or said that other unconquered neighborhoods will be home to Tattes later this year.
“For me, it’s not about the number,” Or said. “For me, it was always about bringing something meaningful to each location. It was either to help create a neighborhood or join a very traditional, existing neighborhood.”
Before there were 12 Tatte locations, there was a farmers market. In 2007, Or — who at the time was recently divorced and hoping to start a new life with her daughter after working in film production for 12 years — turned to her kitchen, where she baked cookies, cakes, and pastries that her mother taught her how to make while she was growing up on a kibbutz in Israel.
“I asked myself, What else is it that you know how to do well and can keep you busy?” she said. “I just started to bake. And then I read about farmers markets.”
Or began selling her goods at the Copley Square Farmers Market and, after customers kept asking when they’d be able to buy Tatte treats beyond market hours, set up shop in Brookline in February 2008.
“I opened the first Tatte for myself, to have a home,” she said. “I needed to get out of my house and have my own place. You went in and it was like sitting in a living room. And over the years we heard [from customers], ‘This is home for me, this is home away from home.’”
Although it seems like a new Tatte location arrives every few months now, Or’s second outpost took time. She faced difficulty acquiring funding for another store, and didn’t receive a loan until a few years after the Brookline launch. In May 2012, Or opened the second Tatte location on Third Street in Kendall Square, partly because she wanted a bigger space to start serving food beyond baked goods.
But then the expansion never stopped. You can now pop into a Tatte for a coffee and a pastry — plus breakfast sandwiches, shakshukas, salads, grain bowls, and tartines — in Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, the Fenway, in the Seaport, Brookline, Downtown, and Cambridge.
Or doesn’t actively look for new locations; instead, she said, landlords approach her and she decides whether Tatte would be a good fit for the neighborhood. At Berklee, she wants the cafe to serve as a space where students can perform and showcase their work. And by opening downtown, which typically doesn’t see as much local foot traffic on the weekends, Or said her goal was to provide a place to work, socialize, and relax when the rest of the neighborhood seems to shut down.
In 2016, Or sold just over 50 percent of her company to Panera Bread and continued to operate Tatte as an independent company. In 2017, when Panera founder and CEO Ron Shaich sold Panera for $7.5 billion to JAB Holding Corp. and left the company, he took Panera’s share of Tatte with him. Or is emphatic that the real partnership has always been with Shaich, and that their partnership has given Or access and capital to hire employees that she was unable to take on before.
“My director of operations, Rachel Patterson, left Apple to come to Tatte,” Or said. “I have people from everywhere in the country that left unbelievable careers to come help me build this company, which is what [the partnership with] Ron gave me.”
The next step for Or is a major one. She’s expanding her company to Washington, D.C. later this year, and while she wouldn’t say exactly when the first cafe will open there, she confirmed that Tatte is on the cusp of debuting one or two locations in the capital by the end of the year. D.C. reminds Or of Boston — its size, European feel, and international population.
“It’s very authentic,” she said. “I love the neighborhoods. The first time I went there, I fell in love with the city.”
Or said that she rarely gets stressed, that it takes a lot to overwhelm her — even with a store count in the double digits. There is one thing the Tatte founder wishes she had more time for, though.
“I miss baking every day,” she said.
Tatte’s 12th location is now open at One Boston Place, 201 Washington St., Boston; Mondays–Fridays from 7 a.m.–8p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m.–8 p.m., and Sundays from 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; tattebakery.com