Unique shaker sets define local cafe

It was the founders’ personal salt and pepper shaker collection that inspired the name of College Park’s popular breakfast and lunch spot Shakers American Cafe. It was pie that made it grow. 

“Back in the beginning, if you brought in a unique set of shakers, you got a piece of pie,” recalls Caren Hewitt. She owns the building at 1308 Edgewater Dr. where the restaurant has been since 1993. 

Hewitt and her late husband, Bobby, helped the original owners, Tom and Paula Haney, open the eatery. “They didn’t have nearly what they have now, just a couple of shakers on the sides and tables. Then people started donating,” Hewitt said, and the shakers have been passed down from owner to owner. 

“Inside, Shakers is basically the same as it always has been,” Hewitt said. “I love the uniqueness of the shakers. No matter where I sit, I see something I love and something different.” 

Today, Shakers has about 400 salt and pepper shaker sets with about half sitting on shelves, in the window box, on tables and displayed on nearly every surface at the restaurant. Current owners Greg and Terry Granda are so fond of the namesake shaker sets they have built additional shelving to display more of the sets previously in storage. 

“We get customers who go to thrift stores and bring in shakers they have found. We’ll get customers from out of town, and three months later, I’ll get a box in the mail from New York with seven sets in it,” Greg said. “People will come in and see a unique set and want to buy it, but we can’t sell them because they’re donated” and part of the restaurant’s storied history, he said. 

There are sets of all types. One set of eyeballs Terry keeps on a high shelf “because they can be a bit creepy, but I treasure them,” she said with a laugh. She has a special shelf dedicated to Disney characters. There is a rare set of robot Mickey Mouse shakers on a special shelf by the cash register donated by a regular who is a Disney artist. And there are shakers depicting all the state college football teams, but Greg’s favorite sports set is from the University of Michigan close to where he grew up. 

Terry said, “A local comes in once a year dressed as a pirate on Pirate’s Day,” and he donated the pirate set of shakers. “These gorgeous fish shakers were also given to us by a regular,” she said, pointing to a colorful pair in the shape of fish with huge ruby lips. 

Seasonal shakers are put on tables all year long. The day after Thanksgiving, the fall harvest theme is changed to Christmas shakers. “I love that tradition,” Terry said, adding that they are always on the hunt for something different they don’t already have in the collection. 

The sets are cleaned regularly. A year ago, when Greg stood on a ladder cleaning the sets on high shelves, he wiped down an antique sugar tin. Looking inside, he discovered for the first time a faded note that read: “Shakers Grand Opening 8/23/93.” 

“The can is in the same place today. It’s special to us,” Greg said. 

Shakers has been a family-owned and -operated restaurant since its opening and has stayed largely the same through four owners. Popular items like the Annie’s Apple sandwich are still on the menu, and customers have contributed not only to the shaker collection but to the food selections as well. 

“One day, a customer asked for a blueberry muffin to be grilled, and another customer saw it and asked for one. Then someone posted a rave review on Yelp about it, and now it’s one of our signature popular items,” Greg said. 

Open daily 6:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., the shop has a robust takeout business and typically a line out the door at lunchtime despite seating for 65. 

“We moved to College Park and started eating in the restaurants here and enjoying it. Whenever family came to town, we brought them to Shakers, the unique little place in the neighborhood,” Greg said. When the eatery came on the market for sale in July 2014, the Grandas quickly made an offer. 

“We had been casually talking to a broker about what restaurants were out there, and I had said we wanted a small mom-and-pop place something like Shakers. It took very little thought to make that decision,” Greg said. “We would go for walks in the neighborhood and think, ‘Wouldn’t it be so cool to live here and work here?’ And it’s as cool as I thought it would be.” 

Both Grandas have extensive restaurant experience in cooking, management and operations. While the menu has largely stayed the same over the years, they offer daily specials. “For our creativity, we do the chalkboard menu items,” Greg said. “Most of the best ideas come from the customers.” 

Next year, Shakers celebrates its 25th anniversary; thought is being given to how they will commemorate the milestone. “We’re looking forward to ideas from the customers,” Greg said, but without pie on the menu anymore, shaker enthusiasts will have to consider other options to honor the restaurant’s history. 

One Response to “Unique shaker sets define local cafe”

  1. Javier Yataco
    December 3, 2017 at 8:33 pm #

    Such a fan of this local restaurant and we send people here all the time!

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