Phoebe Lawless, pictured in 2010 when Scratch Bakery first opened, prints a menu. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
Phoebe Lawless, pictured in 2010 when Scratch Bakery first opened, prints a menu. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Morning Newsletter

Acclaimed Scratch Bakery closing in downtown Durham

January 26, 2018 11:29 AM


The beloved downtown Durham pie shop and cafe Scratch Bakery will close at the end of February.

Acclaimed baker Phoebe Lawless announced on Facebook Friday morning that the time has come to close her original location, recently dubbed “Mama Scratch” following the opening of her satellite bake shop “Baby Scratch” late last year. Baby Scratch will continue, as will Lawless’ first full service restaurant The Lakewood next door.

In the eight years since Lawless opened Scratch, much has changed in Durham and in her life. Her family and business have grown, and the largely quaint downtown has turned into a bustling city center. In that space on Orange Street, Lawless turned flour, sugar and butter into multiple James Beard Award nominations for baking.

In a long and poetic personal essay on Facebook, Lawless tracked the growth of Scratch from a woman selling pies at the farmer’s market to the popular spot for breakfast, lunch and brunch service we know today.

“I’m so very proud of what we accomplished in that tiny little shop that has become known as ‘Mama Scratch,’” Lawless wrote. “The honest food, the amazing staff who gave me and our customers their effort and passion and joy, and you… all of you who chose to spend your time and money with us, who lingered for a third cup of coffee, who took our pies home to your Thanksgiving tables, who pulled on our backwards front door instead of pushing it open, who doled out donut muffins to your jumping children, who made our space your office and breakfast nook and home away from home. Thank you so very, very much.”

Lawless is a protege of the James Beard Award-winning baker Karen Barker of the now-closed Magnolia Grill. In Lawless’ essay, she said running two bakeries in different parts of town, as well as The Lakewood, had stretched her too thin. She suggested she had also felt development pressures in a downtown constantly turning into something new.

“We’ve had an amazing eight years in that bakeshop on Orange Street,” Lawless wrote. “But now everything is different. That toddler is a teenager. That sleepy block now bustles. And, especially, downtown Durham has transformed. All the once-empty storefronts are now offices and stores and restaurants and bars. It’s growing at a pace that we aren’t able to keep up with in that small storefront.”

The downtown Scratch will remain open until the end of February, and Lawless said she is going to have fun with the menu over the next month. She encourages fans to continue visiting in Lakewood.

“We’re so excited to be starting this new journey in a place that reminds me so much of the old downtown Durham,” Lawless wrote. “We want you to have that same old feeling when you walk in those new doors.”

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson