When a friend asked me to an opening event for Young Audiences, I was caught unawares. Could Remington's newest arts and food destination be ready so soon? It seemed like only few months ago this old tire shop at 26th and Howard streets still had the unmistakable auto garage aroma.
But this week the trucks were unloading the new commercial dishwashers and carpenters were fitting out the newly named Parts & Labor, the butcher shop and pub that will start serving Maryland craft beers alongside plates of local sausage, sauerkraut and potatoes later this year. Patrons will walk in the front door and find a wood-burning cooking hearth lined with old Baltimore street-paving granite blocks. It'll be quite a revelation and may be just the business that gives this part of a neighborhood a jolt of strong recognition.
"It once smelled like oil and tires here," said George Marsh, the executive chef of Parts & Labor's parent business, Woodberry Kitchen, as he walked through a newly constructed corridor where his steer, hog, lamb and goat carcasses will be delivered and made ready for his sharp knives. "This is all about trying to bring locally raised meats to a community."
Marsh, 31, who will run Parts & Labor, grew up in Harford County and has a fine-arts degree from Auburn University. From initially working in the arts and food design field, he migrated over to "what I really wanted to do." His dream, he told me this week, was to open a butcher shop where locally raised products are sold. He'll also be offering homemade sauerkraut, other brined vegetables and meat goodies (think sausages and cured meats) to his thirsty beer imbibers. He said Parts & Labor will open only when all the components of this food and beverage operation are ready. He mentions March, but cautions patience.
The design at 2600 N. Howard wraps the food-beer-wine operation up with the butcher shop and takeout sandwich counter at the front of the building. The extensive food preparation section is in the rear.
Members of Single Carrot Theatre, also housed in the complex, are in final rehearsals a few feet away from the pub and butcher shop. The theater company, also a prime tenant in the building, will begin previews of "The Flu Season" next week.
And Young Audiences Arts for Learning, a nonprofit group dedicated to introducing students to visual and performing arts, is already at work. (It long outgrew its former quarters in a Calvert Street rowhouse.)
The last time I was past this innocuous-looking Remington tire shop, workers had just pulled down a back addition to create a parking area. They worked over the summer and fall to subdivide and transform it into a neighborhood amenity that promises to be a comfortable fit in the larger Remington-Hampden-Charles Village-Johns Hopkins community.
I find this corner of Remington to be an authentic urban intersection where much progress has been made. Once fairly trash-strewn, the streets have become tidy. There are still local auto repair shops scattered along 26th Street, which itself parallels the CSX freight railroad route, a deep cut in the neighborhood known as the Baltimore Belt Line. And intermixed with these little businesses are block after block of Baltimore's densely spaced rowhouses, often located on tiny and hidden streets requiring an advanced sense of direction to locate.
It's also a corner just across the street from Miller's Court, where Seawall Development, the developers of 2600 Howard, placed its hopes, and money, more than five years ago. The court was a derelict factory that made the tire shop look like a branch of Tiffany & Co. Miller's Court now houses apartments aimed at young teachers. Another Seawall project, Union Mill, houses Artifact Coffee, another Woodberry Kitchen spinoff, along with apartments and office space. Seawall also renovated individual homes and has larger development aspirations along nearby Remington Avenue.
If all this sounds like some creative neighborhood synergy, it is. And speaking of neighborhood connectedness, keep an eye on the Parkway Theatre. Seawall is involved there too.