Tacoma’s beloved Old Milwaukee Cafe closed indefinitely while owner heals from injury

Tacoma’s Old Milwaukee Cafe & Dessert Co., beloved for over 20 years for its warm, inviting atmosphere and delicious huckleberry pancakes, remains closed this week with no reopening date in sight.

The cafe shut its doors May 23 after one of the owners, Chad Kerth, suffered shoulder and toe injuries.

Friend and business partner Kevin McGlocklin has created a gofundme account so people can help Chad and his wife, Pat.

“I didn’t ask them before I started it,” said McGlocklin, founder of Bluebeard Coffee Roasters in Tacoma. “And I could see them being people who didn’t want to seem needy, (but) people (here) just appreciate them so much.”

In the gofundme’s description, McGlocklin wrote the purpose of the fundraiser is “to buy them breakfast for a change and show them how much they mean to our city and community.”

The fundraiser has been shared 1,600 times and has raised about $8,500. Some of the donations include messages:

“Pat and Chad are a cornerstone of our community and a place of joy for our little family.”

“Because going to Old Milwaukee is like having a meal with family. Wishing you health and healing.”

“We love Pat and Chad!”

Cafe lovers Summer and Dan Briggs also organized an effort to decorate the cafe with pink and red hearts, each with personal, handwritten notes.

The cafe started in Freighthouse Square, later moving to its current location on Sixth Avenue near Cedar Street.

Since then, “It’s been the Pat and Chad show,” with Chad doing the cooking and Pat waiting on tables, said McGlocklin.

Over the years, the small cafe has had an outsized community impact.

The News Tribune reported in 2007 that the Kerths had raised tens of thousands of dollars for causes they care about, primarily by asking customers for donations.

From the Humane Society (because of their love for dogs) to breast cancer research and a foundation that encourages parents to read to their children, the Kerths have shown their commitment and devotion to the Tacoma community, according to the News Tribune report.

The quality of the food matches the quality of their community involvement, former state Rep. Dennis Flannigan of Tacoma told The News Tribune on Wednesday.

“I’m a semi-connoisseur of great junk food,” joked Flannigan, a cafe regular for many years.

The Kerths also have cultivated a warm and welcoming feel at the cafe. They chat with regulars and know their orders. They make people feel at home.

“They’ve always been very open to all people who walk in the door. That’s one of the gifts that they provide,” Flannigan said. “I just fell in love with these folks.”