The women's clothing boutique Ruth Shaw is moving in September from its longtime home in the Village of Cross Keys in North Baltimore to another regional shopping enclave eight miles north, The Shops at Kenilworth.
It's one of many new tenant announcements for Kenilworth, whose owners embarked on a $20 million renovation recently on the Towson center that lured the popular Trader Joe's grocery store in March from another nearby location.
"Aging is an opportunity," said Tom Fitzpatrick, president of the Owings Mills-based Greenberg Gibbons, which bought the property in 2015 and recently began the upgrades that include a large new mall entrance with white tiles and skylights. "We're pretty entrenched in the Baltimore County market, and we always believed Kenilworth was a gem that just needed a little polishing."
The company has also announced other retailers coming this spring, including Quiet Storm, Amaryllis and ZenLife.
But in the case of Ruth Shaw, Kenilworth's gain is Cross Key's loss. The move leaves two more empty spaces at Cross Keys because the Girl Next Door shop is consolidating into one big newly designed space.
Rene Daniel, principal of the real estate firm and consultancy Trout Daniel & Associates, said Greenberg Gibbons is following the same formula at Kenilworth that it employed at other local properties in need of refreshing, including Hunt Valley Towne Centre.
Such investments have proved "smart, even brilliant," he said, because retailers follow each other. Hunt Valley signed another popular grocery, Wegman's.
The groceries are now serving as anchors in the same way that big department stores have done for large shopping malls. Ruth Shaw likely wouldn't have moved if not for Trader Joe's arrival, Daniel said.
Greenberg Gibbons also operates Annapolis Towne Centre, Waugh Chapel Towne Centre, Towne Centre at Laurel and Foundry Row.
"The appeal of Kenilworth today is that it's very easily accessible, it's very well known and has a history in the market," Daniels said. "And it has new retail. Without any new retail at Cross Keys, it becomes a target for almost any other property in the market that has some demographic similarity."
For its part, Cross Keys' owner, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., has its own "refresh" planned for the property, said Stephanie Mineo, senior vice president of the company. There will be new paint and materials and other upgrades to the aging exterior. The changes will not be as extensive as the renovations at Harborplace in downtown Baltimore, which Ashkenazy also owns.
Mineo said the changes have been in the works for years, but because the center sits among several residential communities, officials needed time to gain agreements with all the neighbors. The firm also didn't want to begin work during the holidays or over the winter, she said.
The Cross Keys upgrades should begin in coming weeks and take about six to eight weeks. Mineo said that in the meantime, the firm is working to fill storefronts with new permanent tenants and also plans to dedicate at least one space to "pop-up" shops. They will be a mix of local and regional entrepreneurs who want to try new retail ideas without committing to a long-term lease.
The idea is borrowed from other retail centers around the country, and Mineo said the firm thought it would appeal to area shoppers who could come regularly to see what's available.
"This will keep things fresh and current," she said. "We think shoppers will be intrigued."
Ray Mitchener, co-owner of Ruth Shaw, said his shop has done well in Cross Keys and he wasn't sure about moving when he was first approached. But he said he isn't worried about his customers driving a bit farther, and he expects new customers to discover the shop.
Mitchener said the shop has always been known for its relationships with customers. The shop occasionally hosts happy hours and employees sometimes even take new items to long-time customers.
"We have original merchandise, and I don't think an extra eight miles is too far to come," he said. "Our customers are friends. They trust us. We offer service in a way you don't get at a department store."
Ruth Shaw will fill a 3,100-square-foot space on the second level of Kenilworth just behind Trader Joe's. The renovations to the interior and exterior are expected to be completed in the fall.