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Nikki Verdecchia

Hampden Insider Nikki Verdecchia
Hampden Insider Nikki Verdecchia

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Nikki Verdecchia is proof that Hampden can get into a girl's bones.  As a little girl, she visited her Nana in the neighborhood, and her parents bought a row house on Falls Road after she left home.  But it wasn't until Nikki was ready to be a homeowner, that she actually resided there herself--leaving Canton in favor of something less showy.

"I wanted a neighborhood that was a little more Baltimore and arty," she says.  "I've always seen Baltimore as a very down-to-earth place.  It's really always been a working class town."

For Nikki, a hair stylist at Balance Salon, the mix of working artists and working people was just the thing.  And so she bought her parents' house--keeping Hampden in the family.

Grabbing a bite

On a Friday night, Verdecchia is drawn to the hip vibe at Rocket to Venus.  "You can have an inexpensive dinner and cocktails," she says.  "It's good for family early, and it's good for a party later."

Holy Frijoles offers a funky happy hour, a more casual atmosphere and "the best guacamole."

Common Ground [no web site] is the spot for a locally roasted cup of joe and a sandwich on a lazy Saturday.  The omelets, made by former stuntman, Mick Kipp, at Whiskey Island Pirate Shop, are a must for Sunday morning brunch.

Shop girl

"I do shop in Hampden, and I try to go there before I go to the mall," Nikki says.  Milagro is a favorite, featuring distinctive jewelry, clothing and tchatchke with a Latin twist.  Ma Petite Shoe is the place in Baltimore for the newest designs in footwear, and just a couple of doors down, Gotta Have Bags offers just the right accessories at great prices.

For high-quality, vintage clothing, Nikki heads to Minás Gallery and Boutique.  "I love that you can buy something, then pick up a free book on the way out," she says.

Relaxing on the stoop

Nikki really came to appreciate Hampden from her front porch.  "That's how I know my neighbors," she says.  "Dave down the street knows everything that's going on.  My neighbors tell me when the FedEx guy has been here and why the car alarm across the street went off."  Plus, Nikki's porch is prime real estate for watching the very kitschy Mayor's Annual Christmas Parade each December.

Hampden is well known for its characters--from the shop owners to the performers to the old-timers who sit on the library steps smoking.  "There are definitely very strong personalities here," Nikki says.  "It's an interesting mix of hipster and townie, and artist and down-to-earth people."

That's just how Nikki likes it.
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