By Lorraine Mirabella and Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun
8:18 PM EST, February 7, 2012
More than 20 years after it left the Baltimore waterfront, McCormick and Co. plans to open a store this summer at the Inner Harbor that will sell spices as well as an updated image of the homegrown company.
Shoppers at the McCormick World of Flavors store will not only be able to buy cooking products and gifts. They will also be able to take part in interactive activities and cooking demonstrations that illustrate McCormick's evolution from spice maker to global flavor company.
"It's part of a larger initiative to spread the word about what McCormick is all about," said Jim Lynn, a spokesman for the company, which made the announcement Tuesday. "People think spices, and that's our heritage. But we're a flavor company and that's much broader."
In addition to spices, the company creates flavorings for baked goods, beverages, and snacks and ingredients supplied to food manufacturers.
The retail venture — the company's first — is a homecoming of sorts. The store will take up more than 3,800 square feet of the Light Street pavilion at Harborplace, just across Light Street from the site of the former McCormick headquarters and factory, which used to perfume the area with scents of cinnamon, clove and other spices.
The company operated the factory downtown for nearly seven decades before moving to Sparks, in Baltimore County, in 1989. The old McCormick building was demolished and the property is now a surface parking lot.
One analyst said McCormick's idea for the store was similar to the concept behind Hershey's Chocolate World in Pennsylvania, which combines a retail shop with tours and attractions.
"It invites the public to come in and enjoy the smells," said R. Bentley Offutt, president of Baltimore-based Offutt Securities, an institutional research brokerage firm. "They can also talk about how spices can improve your health — that's been a big, big part of their efforts in the past couple of years."
Offutt added that McCormick's endeavor was part of the advertising activities of a company that now controls about 45 percent of the U.S. spice market and has set its sights on global markets.
"I think they feel very confident that this is a good way of increasing revenues," he said.
McCormick has expanded overseas, acquiring and forming joint ventures with companies in India, Poland and Turkey, among other emerging markets.
McCormick's reappearance downtown comes on the heels of renovations and new tenant openings at Harborplace, whose owner, General Growth Properties, seeks to update the twin pavilions that helped spark the waterfront renaissance in the 1980s.
Christopher Schardt, senior general manager of Harborplace & The Gallery, said the pavilions aimed to attract not only tourists, but also office workers and the increasing number of downtown residents.
"It gives visitors a taste of a Maryland icon that's Baltimore-based with name recognition throughout the world," he said. "And because of what they offer — spices and cooking demonstrations — they'll be attracting locals who live in the market, who want to walk to the store to get spices."
General Growth is making improvements to the Light Street pavilion, including a new first-level food court that's set to open by June and a Bubba Gump restaurant that will occupy the space left vacant by Phillips Seafood. The moves will bring occupancy in the two pavilions to 95 percent.
In addition, the landlord is in talks with Ripley's Believe it or Not Odditorium and also hopes to bring in a restaurant on the second level.
Lynn said McCormick officials have been talking for the past year about what McCormick stands for and how to best spread the brand. With the Harborplace store, the company hopes to reach tourists and residents alike, he said.
"And they will see [that] this isn't my mother's McCormick," he said. "It's a global corporation."
The store will dedicate areas to cooking, baking and grilling. Shoppers also will be able to determine their "flavor profile," participate in guess-the-spice activities, and view demonstrations by celebrity chefs.
McCormick's move drew applause Tuesday.
"I think it's great symbolism, McCormick coming back home," said J. Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership. "It definitely can encourage repeat visits from local Baltimore residents and will also be a fun and active venue for tourists."
Said McCormick's Lynn: "It will be an educational and fun experience" that focuses on the "role flavor plays in people's lives."
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