gather cafe and urban fort photo courtesy google maps

Gather Cafe in McKinley Heights will close permanently on June 4

Gather Cafe will close in McKinley Heights on Sunday, June 4. The cafe has operated for the past two years inside kids’ play space Urban Fort, which will remain open for business. 

Co-owners Megan King-Popp and Monica Croke opened Gather Cafe in May 2021 as a separate space inside Urban Fort, their popular play space for children under 6 years old. The play space previously had a cafe area, but due to the pandemic’s disruption of Urban Fort’s regular business, King-Popp and Croke wanted to create a café that was somewhat distinct, catering both to parents with young children but also the broader community. 

“Gather was a solution to the Covid problem,” King-Popp said. “We needed a wider audience to be able to succeed, and we separated the cafe space from Urban Fort in order to open up to a bigger group of customers, because obviously not everybody wants to have breakfast with screaming 5-year-olds.”

King-Popp said that at this point, she and Croke needed to make space to focus on Urban Fort’s success, and that something had to give. “We're just kind of at this point where owning and operating a coffee house has been more of a burden than it has been a blessing,” she said. “It really worked for a while, and it was fun for a while. … But, as you know is the common theme with all these closings, staffing has been a problem. Consistency has been a problem. And I think that St. Louis has such an amazing coffee and cafe market that there's just so much competition in this particular market right now.” 

Urban Fort will remain open for business, both for walk-in customers and those with reservations. King-Popp said that coffee will still be available to parents bringing their kids to play at Urban Fort, at least until and unless the coffee-making equipment is sold.