At The Codex Club, a new boutique in the Arundel Mills mall, every day is Small Business Saturday.
Owner Andrea Chen has filled her nearly 2,000-square-foot shop with an eclectic collection of handmade cards, candles, food, jewelry and clothing. The common thread is that nearly all were made by artisans living or working within Baltimore city limits. Prices range from about $5 to $100.
Chen and her future-husband moved to Baltimore in 2015 after he landed his dream job locally. The couple bought and rehabbed a townhouse in Federal Hill.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about promoting the city in our store,” Chen said. “My husband and I really believe in Baltimore development.”
Chen is a graduate of New York’s Parsons School of Design. It was while she was working as a graphic designer alongside several art school alumnae that she came up with the idea of launching her own business.
More than 140 original works on view at St. John's College in Annapolis explore the history of children’s books from the turn-of-the-century pen-and-ink Mother Goose art to "The Cat in the Hat," "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Stuart Little."
“The other girls were always drawing at their desks on their down time,” she said. “I thought we should have fun with this. I told them, ‘We didn’t all go to art school to design PowerPoint templates from 9 to 5.’ ”
The four began putting their designs on cards and clothing and selling them through the online marketplace Etsy. Chen managed the business arrangements for the group, and when the Etsy business was successful, they expanded into pop-up stores. Chen began connecting with other local craftsmen and expanded her product line. Now, The Codex Store carries goods made by about 15 Baltimore artisans.
Though the pop-up stores were profitable, Chen yearned for the permanence and stability provided by a brick-and-mortar location. When she had saved enough to afford rent and hire two other part-time employees, one mall in particular seemed like the right fit.
“My husband and I used to come to Arundel Mills for date nights,” she said.