Artist Maria Beddia and chef Scott Schroeder say their new space will invite guests to enjoy quick-service meals or linger in a comfortable, homey setting.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 16, 2021
When Maria Beddia and Scott Schroeder moved to Collingswood from South Philly in early 2020, the couple knew they’d found the right place to settle down.
With a yard for their dogs Willie and Bruce, and a driveway to stave off the ravenous Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), they felt at home immediately.
Exploring the walkable borough downtown assuaged Beddia’s fears of losing the feel of city life, while Schroeder, the chef behind The Hungry Pigeon of Queen Village, foresaw opportunities to connect with its foodie audience.
When he learned that his friends in Constellation Collective were shutting down their storefront, Schroder was grateful for the opportunity to carry on in their space.
“Even when I was still working in the city at the Pigeon, we were like, ‘Why don’t we just do a coffee shop over here?’” Schroeder said. “We decided to keep it simple.”
“We both get to showcase our stuff,” Beddia said. “My talents are to make a space feel really cozy and fun and an extension of my creative brain, and his food speaks for itself.”
In January, the couple will reopen the shops at 683 and 685 Haddon Avenue as Maria’s Bread Sandwiches, a split storefront that allows customers to order their food in one space, and enjoy it in the other.
A digital kiosk and online ordering are designed to streamline the customer experience for morning commuters, parents heading to school drop-off, and those who still prefer to take their meals on the go.
On the left, in the former Philly Coin and Stamp storefront, they can linger in a setting that Beddia describes as a “90s coffee shop lounge-y vibe.
“It’s really all about making people feel very comfortable,” she said. “If you want to hang out here on your laptop all day, you’re more than welcome.
“I want this to feel like our home,” Beddia said. “It will be very warm and green and inviting.”
Beddia is still curating the lounge décor, but she’s already painted one accent wall in a pattern that pays homage to her Lancaster, Pennsylvania roots.
An artist and illustrator who hit a home run with the best-selling children’s book P is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever, Beddia said she’s “sliding in my favorite things little by little” into the design.
The name of the restaurant is hers as well; a private joke turned public when she wasn’t in the mood for a Philly-sized hoagie or cheesesteak one day.
“I was telling Scott, ‘I really just want a bread sandwich,’” Beddia recalls. “‘I just want a normal-sized sandwich.’ He said, ‘That’s really funny.’”
Schroeder isn’t worried that customers won’t get the joke.
“As long as people react,” he said.
The chef intends to keep the menu small, with fresh ingredients from local farmers and purveyors, including Mighty Bread and Ultimo Coffee of Philadelphia. Breakfast offerings will range from light fare—yogurt, granola, chia pudding—to heartier sandwiches on sourdough and wheat.
In addition to toasts and sandwiches, the lunch menu will include soup, entrée, and vegetable specials. Signature items will include the “Down the Shore” chicken salad, which Schroeder said is enhanced with “the guilty pleasure of Old Bay,” and the Italian tuna, poached with greens, olives, and a soft egg.
The menu is scaled back from the more labor-intensive dishes Schroeder might have served at The Hungry Pigeon, but his new kitchen affords the chef a chance to stretch his creativity as the mood strikes.
“We’re going to be supporting as many small businesses and small farms as we can, and do it in an abbreviated fashion so it’s manageable,” Schroeder said.
“It gives us the ability to do ambitious things when we want to, and it makes the day-to-day operations pretty easy,” he said.
“We want a little more work-life balance.”
After the shop finds its footing, Schroeder and Beddia plan to rent the space for private parties, pop-up dinners, and to offer catering services.
For the time being, they’re enjoying the best of city living in the Jersey suburbs and going home for dinner at the end of the day.
“I was nervous because I enjoyed all of the things in the city that I could just walk to,” Beddia said. “But once I came over here, I’m not really missing anything, I’m actually having the best of both worlds.
“We have a great yard; we have a driveway, and our quality of life improved immensely,” she said.
“We’re done giving the PPA all of our money.”
Maria’s Bread Sandwiches is targeting an early-to-mid-January 2022 opening date. Shop hours will be
7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday.
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