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Indian Grocery Store Opens in Downtown Baltimore

Downtown residents now have a place to buy ingredients to make chicken tikka masala or palak paneer.
Annapurna Grocery and Gifts opened last week at 323 North Charles St, selling Indian and Nepalese spices, ready-to-eat foods, sweets and Korean noodles. Owner Ryan Thap, who also owns the neighboring Lumbini Restaurant, says he believes his grocery store will be well-received by downtown customers who appreciate ethnic foods but look for ways to save a buck. “They like the ready-to-eat foods. If they go to a restaurant for it though, they pay more than $20,” Thap says.
Thap says that although the grocery store has already opened, he will hold a Grand Opening in one month during which he plans to incorporate customer feedback and extend store hours from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. The store is currently open daily from 11.a.m.-8 p.m. Thap has already received specific customer feedback he plans to incorporate, like carrying more Indian vegetables, frozen foods and breads along with ingredients to make chicken curry and paneer. Customers with purchases of at least $100 can have their groceries delivered.
Thap planned to open the grocery store since February and invested $60,000 in the 1,600 square-foot space. He currently has one employee but is considering hiring two more.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Ryan Thap

Sofi's Crepes Expanding to Fells Point, Delaware and New Jersey

Oh la la! The sweet smell of crepes will soon start wafting over the cobblestone streets of Fells Point and two other mid-Atlantic states as Sofi’s Crepes expands to new locations.

By mid-December, Sofi’s Crepes will open in a former office at 1627 Thames St. that is currently under renovation. Founder Ann Costlow is also plotting an expansion outside of Maryland. Costlow says she expects a Sofi's Crepes in Delaware and another in New Jersey to open within a year. 

The creperie's fifth location will be a franchise owned by one of the creperie’s employees, Michael Calhoun, says Costlow. The restaurant in Fells Point will hire about 15 and include a small seating area, Costlow says. 

“There’s a little alleyway in there and we are going to be actually in that alley. We’re going to have a pass-through window in that alley, so people are going to be able to smell it from the street, and they can either grab it and go, or they can come inside,” Costlow says.

Sofi’s has a standard menu of sweet and savory crepes. Plus, each location showcases a variety of local specials. The Fells Point specials are still being tweaked.

Costlow says she thinks the location will be popular with both locals and tourists.

“It’s a tourist location because you’ve got the water taxi, and you’ve got a lot of tourists down there, as well you’ve got a lot of walk-around traffic.”

The Fells Point shop is the third franchise in Costlow’s growing chain: the Owings Mills, and Annapolis locations are franchises. Costlow owns the shops on Charles Street and at Belvedere Square.

Over the past three years, Costlow says she’s had talks with probably 20 people about franchising. Most of those discussions didn’t pan out, either because it wasn’t a good fit, or because of financing, which Costlow says is the biggest holdup for potential franchise owners.

The initial startup for Sofi’s could be anywhere between $100,000 to $250,000 depending on the extent of the build out. 

The Owings Mills, Annapolis, and now the Fells Point stores are franchises. Costlow owns two: on Charles Street in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and at Belvedere Square. 
Reporter: Amy Landsman
Source: Ann Costlow, founder, Sofi’s Crepes

New Ellicott City Shop Caters to Yoga Lovers

Yoga enthusiasts and fans of yoga-inspired apparel have a new shopping destination in Ellicott City's historic downtown.
Gogo Guru will open Nov. 17 in the Reedy Electrical building at 8289 Main St. in Ellicott City, next to Tersiguel’s restaurant.
The shop will sell yoga equipment such as mats, yoga clothes, yoga-themed gifts, as well as yoga-inspired fashion apparel.
Owner Hilary Brich has put an emphasis on getting clothes from independent designers that are made either in the US or from a fair trade partner that adheres to fair labor practices.
"We vet the sources of our clothing to make sure it's not made in a factory in China. Our stuff costs a little more but you're supporting independent designers, there's more quality, design, style, and more interesting fabrics," Brich says.
An avid yoga practitioner who became a certified yoga instructor, Brich wanted to combine her extensive business background--working in varying capacities from IT to marketing-- with her love for yoga. Thus, the idea for Gogo Guru was born.
Brich spent the past two years scouring for a retail location for her shop, including Baltimore City neighborhoods like Mount Vernon and Fells Point, to locations in Columbia.
She ultimately selected a location in Ellicott's City's historic downtown because of her ability to work with the building owner to customize the space to her needs within her budget.
The 480-square-foot space is still undergoing the final touches of construction after a renovation that knocked down a wall and opened a big window that had been covered for years in the historic building. The process required approval from the county's historic preservation board.
Brich says she was drawn to the area by the eclectic mix of shoppers and visitors from 20-somethings to an older generation of motorcycle riders that come downtown to have a good time.
Additionally, the yoga scene in Ellicott City is incredibly vibrant with yoga studios and spaces at community centers within every square mile of the city, Brich says.
A quick search on Yelp indicates more than 15 yoga studios in the vicinity of Ellicott City.
Source: Hilary Brich, owner, Gogo Guru
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Mt. Washington Pediatric Unveils $9M Renovation

Patients and visitors heading into the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital on Rogers Avenue in North Baltimore now no longer face an outdated and nondescript main entrance.

A bright, renovated space now welcomes the nearly 6,500 patients, plus families, and caregivers who pass through the lobby each year.

“It’s bright. It’s colorful. You definitely know you’re in a place for children,” says Sheldon Stein, CEO of Mt. Washington.

The renovated lobby is one of three major upgrades completed Nov. 1. The $9 million renovation started two years ago.

The second update is a new canopy for ambulances, so premature babies being transported from local hospitals aren’t exposed to the hot sun or cold rain.

The third upgrade is a complete redesign and expansion of the hospital’s neonatal care unit, which added 10 more beds and allows it to take 100 to 150 more patient admissions each year. 

The design features a lot of high-tech touches: “Each bed has its own personal computer to document everything electronically,” says Stein. But there are also those tried and true low-tech features to help prevent germs. “You can’t go eight feet without walking into a sink to wash your hands,” Stein adds.

The renovations were part of a capital campaign that had its roots back in 2007, when Mt. Washington was jointly acquired by the University of Maryland Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Medicine. The board and leadership studied trends and realized there would be a growing need for babies who were ready to leave the pediatric ICU’s at local hospitals, but weren’t ready to go home.  Before construction began, staff and families were surveyed to see what they liked about the existing neonatal unit and what they wanted in the future.

The fundraising was financed through grants, corporate donations, and individual contributions. About $7 million paid for the capital improvements. The remaining $2 million is designated for the Mt. Washington Foundation, for programs and services.

The hospital has been adding nurses, social workers, case managers and physicians, and plans to continue hiring. The hospital has hired 20 additional clinical staff to accommodate the expansion. It employs 600 total.

“We have babies who are very tiny. They’re small but they come with a lot of technology. They have breathing apparatus, all sorts of pumps and IV’s,” says Stein. “We were very innovative in how we laid out this design that satisfied the families’ need to see a nurse close by, and the nurses’ needs to see another nurse.”

Writer: Amy Landsman
Source: Shelter Stein, CEO, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital

MICA Food Truck Rolls into Bolton Hill

Hungry students and residents of Bolton Hill have a new way of grabbing food on the go.
Maryland Institute College of Art's (MICA) new mobile kitchen, The Artist's Palate, now provides sandwiches, falafels, burritos, tacos, soups and hamburgers at a variety of food and drink locations around the art school's campus community.
The college spent approximately $100,000 to get the former bread truck up and running with a kitchen that includes refrigeration, a sandwich station, and a deep fryer. The truck is operated by Parkhurst Dining Services and managed by MICA.

Since launching last month, the food truck has been a hit with students, workers, and neighborhood residents alike, says Chris Bohaska, MICA's senior director of operations business services.
A food truck has been planned for the campus community for a couple of years, Bohaska says. The combination of the expansion of the campus onto North Avenue, as well as the unique schedule of MICA students who often take full-day studio art courses, provided the impetus to find a 'creative solution' to provide a variety of food options to the campus community.
Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to broadcast its location, the food truck cycles to various campus spots. Social media will enable customers to determine which locations serve the community best, Bohaska says. Its schedule and locations will fluctuate semester by semester.
Food trucks on college campuses are relatively new, Bohaska says. He also believes that the campus is the first in Maryland to have a food truck operated by the institution.
Source: Chris Bohaska, MICA senior director, operations business services
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Kids Clothing Store Relocates to Federal Hill

A boutique for fashionable youngsters has moved from Mount Vernon to Federal Hill, a neighborhood that the owner hopes will attract more shoppers.
Cottage Kidz Boutique opened for business Oct. 27 at 1129 Light St., the former location of Bobabooi's Treasure Chest. The move from 823 North Charles St. wasjust two days before Maryland started feeling the effects from Hurricane Sandy. Cottage Kidz assistant Phillip Hawthorne says shoppers were sparse during its first Saturday in Federal Hill when everyone was making Sandy preparations, but is now picking up.
Owner Kimberly Pitts believes her boutique is a better fit in Federal Hill. “There’s more kids here, and the traffic is much heavier,” Pitts says.
The boutique opened at its original location August 2009. The new location is about 1,000 square-feet, which is the same as the old one. Although there is no longer a play area, the Boutique now has a wall that young shoppers can doodle on with chalk.
Cottage Kidz sells apparel, footwear and accessories for kids toddlers through ‘tweens. The boutique also now carries baby clothing and brands like Bean Belt, Alpha Industries and True Religion. Merchandise runs from $10-$180.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Kimberly Pitts, Cottage Kidz 

Barbecue Joint to Expand and Add Live Music

A Howard County barbecue joint is cooking up expansion plans.  Smokin' Hot Bar and Grille, which offers pulled pork, pit beef and chicken, plans to enlarge its space and add live music by January.
The Glenwood restaurant received approval from the county to expand the restaurant from 2,740 square-feet to 4,100 square-feet. In its expansion, the restaurant will expand to the location next door in the Inwood Village Center. Owner Brett Arnold says he could invest as much as $50,000 in the expansion.
In its current configuration, the restaurant's dining space becomes too crowded during the nights that the restaurant offers live music, Arnold says.
The space will be used to accommodate the bands that play as well as providing a retail space for the restaurant selling a variety of barbecue sauces and t-shirts, says owner Brett Arnold.
Smokin' Hot's sauces have names like Texas Red and Alabama White, and range from the mild Brown Sugar Baby to smoking hot Black Jack.
Menu items include Texas braised beef and chilies, pulled pork BBQ, beef stew, corned beef and cabbage, and vegetarian BBQ. While the restaurant is known for its barbecue, Smokin Hot also sells appetizers, seafood such as shrimp scampi, salads, a variety of side dishes and desserts.
The restaurant currently employs 30 people and plans to add additional staff after the expansion.
The restaurant opened nearly three years ago and Arnold says he's considering expanding the restaurant to other locations including Sykesville, Baltimore, and Washington.
"We're always looking, but it has to be the right thing," Arnold says.
Source: Brett Arnold, owner
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Ellicott City Getting $14M Rec Center This Spring

Ellicott City residents will have a new place to climb, swim and shoot some hoops this spring.
That’s when the Roger Carter Community Center at 3000 Milltowne Dr. is set to open. Construction on the nearly $14 million project started a year ago and is next to the Burgess Mill Station apartments. State and county bonds are funding the construction.
The recreation center is two-thirds complete with the steel structure, gym and parking lots finished, says Raul Delerme, chief of the Howard County Bureau of Capital Projects, Planning and Construction.
The 46,000-square-foot recreation center will replace the current one, which is less than one-fourth the size and was last renovated 20 years ago. The current recreation center is the only public facility in the county with a pool, Senior Development Officer of Howard County Housing Marcus Ervin says.
The two-story center will include outdoor basketball courts, preschool room, multi-purpose room, a five-lane swimming pool with beach entry, diving well and a retractable roof for the warmer seasons. It will also house a 24-foot climbing wall, an aerobics room and a 6,000-square-foot exercise room.
The Center will be Silver LEED-certified with a solar lighting that reduces utility costs by $63,000 per year.
Irvin says he expects the center to get 419 visitors per day with a total of 31 full-time employees and lifeguards.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Sources: Raul Delerme and Marcus Ervin, Howard County

Developer Plots 180 Single-Family Homes in Howard County

A Montgomery County developer has submitted plans this month to the Howard County Planning Board to build up to 180 single-family homes in Ellicott City.

The upscale custom homes at the Estates at Patapsco Park would be located just next to Route 29 and Old Frederick Road. Homes would range between 2,500 and 6,000 square feet.

Simon Rosenberg, a partner with Silver Spring developer Patapsco Park Associates, says he expects that it will take at least a year to 18 months to go through the county approval process. He says he doesn’t have a timeframe for when construction would begin if and when the county approves the plan.

The new homes are an extension of the developer’s first venture in the Mount Hebron neighborhood, Patapsco Park Estates. Properties in the existing 144-home community cost between $500,000 and $1 million.

Rosenberg says he doesn’t yet know how much the new homes would cost. It depends on what the market demands.

“The baby hasn’t been born and everyone has a lot of questions,” Rosenberg says.

Residents who attended a recent Mount Hebron/Orchards Community Association meeting expressed concerns that additional homes would exacerbate traffic woes along Old Frederick Road. Rosenberg says his firm is now undertaking a traffic study to determine the homes' impact.

Though the housing market is currently in the doldrums, Rosenberg says he believes there will be a demand for new homes in the future.

“Housing is not going to stop. It’s just a mater of how fast you can sell.”

Writer: Julekha Dash; [email protected]
Source: Simon Rosenberg, Patapsco Park Associates 

Lauraville Salon to Cater to Women of Color

A new salon hopes to pamper women in Lauraville with makeup, cosmetics, lingerie, manicures, and pedicures. The 1,000-square-foot Aboni Amour will open Dec. 2 at 4600 Harford Road. 
Owner and Baltimore-native Ebony Tyson launched her makeup line, Aboni Cosmetics, last year and plans to feature the products such as foundation, lipstick, lip gloss and blush at the new location. The cosmetic line was previously sold exclusively online.

"I started the line because it's really hard for women of color to find makeup and colors that compliment our skin," Tyson says.

Tyson had been looking for a site to expand her makeup line. After hearing about the location in Lauraville, she decided it would make a good fit for her business. Tyson says she wants to offer a place for women to be pampered and have fun and wants her customers to see and feel the makeup on their skin before purchasing it.
For Tyson, the path to creating a makeup line and starting her own salon is personal. While in college, Tyson worked as a consultant selling makeup through a company, but the makeup she was selling didn't exist for women of color. Tyson, who is African-American, set out to create her own makeup line that catered to women with a myriad of skin tones.
Tyson taught herself how to create makeup using online tutorials and says her makeup line is all natural, healthy for the skin and safe for use with very sensitive skin.
The company is currently hiring two or three makeup artists.
A grand opening event will take place at the location on Dec. 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Source: Ebony Tyson
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Mediterranean Restaurant to Open in Little Italy

Restaurants in Little Italy will get a new neighbor this winter.
Following a total renovation, a new restaurant, Ozra, plans to open at 806 Stiles St. in December. 

The restaurant will focus on Mediterranean and Persian cuisine, serving lamb, beef, and chicken kabobs and Greek desserts, in a contemporary and simple setting, says Reza Holland, a partner in the project. Dinner entrée prices will range from $12 to $22.

"We're surrounded by nice restaurants but we didn't want to compete with Italian food, we wanted to do something complementary," Holland says.

The 2,100-square-foot restaurant near Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop will feature outdoor, terrace seating and bar on the second floor. An additional bar is planned for the first floor. 

The owners hope to create a contemporary and clean look inside the restaurant with neutral colors and an emphasis on exceptional lighting. Additionally, one of the partners in the project is an artist who has done architecture and design work and will use that expertise in the design of Ozra, Holland says. 
Holland says a group of investors chose the location due to its proximity to the Inner Harbor and an assortment of additional fine dining establishments. Holland says the investors purchased the property in 2009 after it had changed hands many times due to its prime location.
Holland says the owners are in the process of selecting a New York chef to develop the menu and train the staff. 
From 1906 to 1981, the location was home to Impallaria/Gramigna Bakery, with 18 years of closure during the mid-60s and 70s, according to The Baltimore Sun.
According to state property and taxation records, the property was purchased in 2009 for $275,000.
Source: Reza Holland, partner, Ozra
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Yoga Studio Opens on Charles Street

A new downtown yoga studio wants to help Baltimoreans relax the mind, body and spirit.
Quiet Winds yoga opened last week in a 1,000-square-foot studio and office space at 519 North Charles St. Classes are offered for all ages and skill-levels and range from 30-60-minute sessions for $10 and 100-120-minute sessions for $20. Longer sessions are designed to maximize decompression and relaxation periods, while classes in general extend past general yoga skills and incorporate Reiki, aromatherapy, Kundalini and hypnosis techniques.
Owner Brianna Bedigian says she believes her studio offers a different kind of yoga compared with others in the area.
“At Quiet Winds, there’s more of a focus on the mind than the body, on nurturing and nourishing,” Bedigian says.
Bedigian has practiced yoga for more than 15 years and was inspired by its healing powers that helped her after she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and in recovering from a car accident. She completed her 200-hour training at an ashram in Colorado and studied with yoga teacher Donna Farhi and has taught classes locally at Charm City Yoga and Prana Studio in Annapolis. She continues to offer Tuesday yoga sessions in the galleries at the Baltimore Museum of Arts where she enjoys teaching with Botticelli behind her.
Bedigian will be adding classes by October 30 with four instructors at Quiet Winds, and plans to hire more as business grows.

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Brianna Bedigian, Quiet Winds

Brazilian Dance Studio Coming to Charles Street

Baltimore residents looking who want to get fit will soon get to incorporate South American-style martial arts into their workout routine.
The Baltimore Chapter of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation will move into a 1,000 square-foot headquarters at 1 North Charles St. by January. Capoeira is an African and Brazilian form of martial arts that incorporates dance, music and song. 
ICAF-Baltimore's leader Skher Brown has been planning the move for close to two years after becoming a recipient of a Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.'s Operation Storefront grant. Operation Storefront grants were designed to stimulate business and activity in downtown’s abandoned buildings and were awarded to 10 applicants, including EMP Collective, D Center and Jody Davis Designs. Recipients got, on average, $10,000 each.
ICAF-Baltimore was established in 2004 and previously held classes at the Harlem Park Recreation Center and the Sankofa Dance Theater. Recently, Brown has offered classes at Goucher College. Brown says looks forward to having a downtown location and believes it will bring something new to the area.
“Capoeira is a great opportunity for physical assertiveness, it’s a form of self expressions,” Brown says. “Everybody can go the gym and knows about Pilates and yoga, but people will want to try something different.”
Participants range in age from children to seniors, while the average class size is 12. Classes are $15 but there will eventually be group rates, Brown says. Brown plans on possibly hiring as many as four instructors for the new space. He may also rent out the studio to other types of fitness teachers.  

Writer: Jolene Carr
Source: Skher Brown, Baltimore Chapter of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation 

Pike's Diner Reopens as Crab House and Retail Store

Big changes are in store for Pike's Diner on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.
The restaurant is now known as Pike's Crab House and Grill and is less of a diner and will have a greater emphasis on seafood. The restaurant still serves prime rib, ribs and fried chicken.

Pike's Crab House and Grill opened after $50,000 in renovations that includes two new bars: one indoors and one outside with an 80-foot awning.

Owner Wil Reich says he has also added a wall dividing the restaurant and bar from a 3,000-square-foot area that will hold a store selling wine, beer and liquor. The 7,000 square-foot restaurant is now 4,000 square feet to make room for the retail operation.

Rich says he hopes that excitement about a new concept and demand for a liquor store will draw more customers. Because of the proximity of many other restaurants on the block, Reich says he believes there is a great demand for customers to purchase beer, wine, and liquor after getting carryout. 

Located at 921 Reisterstown Road, the restaurant is on the same block as Jilly'sMari Luna, and Vernisage Restaurant, among others. Reich also owns Jilly's. 
Dinner entrees such as the crab cake platter top off at $25. The breakfast menu will still be available as well during specific hours.
Reich has owned the movie-themed diner for six years. The business features life-like statues of various movie stars to pay homage to the building's previous life as a single-screen movie theater. It will continue to feature live music on Saturday nights. The restaurant expects to add an additional 10 employees to the restaurant's current total of 20 employees.
Source: Wil Reich, owner Pike's Crab House and Grill
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Mt. Washington Tavern Getting More Than $4M on Renovations

It's been almost a year since Mt. Washington Tavern was gutted by a two-alarm fire, but the iconic neighborhood watering hole will reopen to the public Nov. 7 after more than $4 million have been spent on the renovations.

Destroyed last Halloween, the popular "Cheers" type bar anchored the North Baltimore neighborhood of Mt. Washington. After the fire, Owner Rob Frisch vowed to local news outlets that the bar would return. And it has, with a few design and layout changes. 
Owner Rob Frisch hired SMG Architects to do all of the design of the 10,000 square-foot building for their expertise in the renovation of historic properties. The new tavern will feature three different and unique bar spaces, Frisch says.
The front bar is now one level, which creates a wide, open space. It will have exposed stone and hickory flooring. The area previously called the "Garden Room" will become the "Chesapeake Room," with a waterfowl theme. A fireplace has also been added to the room.
The upstairs Sky Bar used to be a seasonal bar, but it has been converted to an enclosed, year-round bar with collapsible doors and a large, wooden deck. A new kitchen will allow the tavern to add variation to its menu.
Frisch expects to hire an additional 12 to 15 people to add to the tavern’s staff of approximately 70 people. Construction and renovation started on the tavern in January after the building was demolished.
The tavern will host a grand opening party on Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. to kick-off the holiday season.
Source: Rob Frisch, owner, Mt. Washington Tavern
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

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