There’s no place like home for Hampden’s Golden West Cafe.

Owner Samantha Claassen said Friday that although she was considering moving her restaurant to a nearby church, the establishment is staying put at its current location on West 36th Street after all.

Claassen first began searching for a new space as a means of keeping her business alive.

Jeremy Landsman, who Claassen said owns the building with business partner Kevin Stander, purchased the property where Golden West is located, as well as two adjoining buildings, in 2021. More recently, they raised the rent from $4,000 to around $10,000 per month. Claassen said paying the elevated price as well as an additional increase in property tax and insurance has been “incredibly difficult.”

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While Golden West benefits from a longtime, supportive customer base, it’s also subject to the same challenges facing the rest of the hospitality industry. “We’re starting to see new trends, which are certainly worrisome,” Claassen said, including a midweek slump. Another challenge: “I didn’t really expect inflation to last this long.”

She worried about how the rent increase would affect her restaurant’s casual, diner-like ethos. “We don’t want to be expensive,” she said. “I don’t want to be fine dining, I don’t want to have $40 plates.” So she began looking for a new home for the restaurant that’s been a staple of the Avenue since the 1990s. (It has occupied its current address since 2003.)

She soon found a unique option: the former St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Roland Avenue owned by developer Josh Mente. Mente, who also overhauled the former church across the street from Golden West that is now home to Co-Balt Workspace, was interested in turning the Roland building into an eatery while preserving its historic character.

But even as Claassen looked to find a new home, she said she hesitated to leave the Avenue. “I love the cycles of the street. I love how active it is,” she said. She also worried how any closure would affect the restaurant’s staff of about 50 people.

Ultimately, Claassen said she was able to negotiate a deal with Stander and Landsman that would keep the current high rent in place but remove other aspects of the agreement that “were going to make it more challenging to grow.” She declined to go into the specifics, but said she signed a new lease that will keep Golden West on the Avenue for at least the next seven years.

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Neither Stander nor Landsman could immediately be reached for comment.

The future of the 3900 Roland Ave. church where Claassen had considered moving is still unclear. Mente did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but is scheduled to go before Baltimore’s Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals on Tuesday to request permission to use the site as a restaurant with outdoor seating.

Though she eventually decided to stay, Claassen’s predicament is one shared by various small business owners who find their overhead costs balloon seemingly overnight when their landlords decide to raise the rent. Restaurateurs, in particular, are feeling squeezed by the rising cost of food and labor while also seeing a decline in revenue as customers visit less often.

The situation in Hampden in particular is something of a Catch-22. The area is thriving in large part because of small businesses, but some entrepreneurs may find the area too expensive for them to operate.

“The single most important factor in determining the success or failure of a neighborhood is landlords, for better or worse — usually worse,” said Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books and president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association. In the sought-after neighborhood, Ray said property owners will leave buildings vacant rather than accept a reduced rent.

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No matter the economic headwinds, “rents never seem to go down,” he said. “Landlords seem to be indulging in the same sort of greed-flation that everyone else is operating in,” particularly since the pandemic.

Ray said that situations like the one in Hampden, where a small handful of developers acquire more and more property, make it harder for small business owners to get their own buildings.

“If you want to kill a neighborhood,” he said, “that’s the surefire way to do it.”

This article has been updated to remove an erroneous photo.