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Tom Matarazzo, who paints crab shells, holds his best seller, featuring the Maryland flag.
Tom Matarazzo, who paints crab shells, holds his best seller, featuring the Maryland flag. (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore Sun)

The popular painted crab and screen store on The Avenue in Hampden is closing at the end of the month after 14 years and relocating to Cockeysville, according to its owner, Tom Matarazzo.

Since opening in 2005, Razzo has become known for its custom-painted screens, crabs and postcards. The store is set to close Dec. 29.

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Matarazzo, who named his store Razzo, said he was nearing the end of his lease contract and when it came time to renew, the landlord wanted to triple the rent. When an agreement couldn’t be reached, Matarazzo looked elsewhere.

Preller Properties, which owns the store building, did not respond to a request for comment.

Matarazzo, however, said he was quickly able to firm up a new location beginning in 2020 to sell his signature painted screens and crabs at the Pennsylvania Dutch Market.

“It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m eager,” Matarazzo said.

Though he’s sad to leave his quaint storefront with hanging crabs in the windows at 911 W. 36th St., Matarazzo said he’s looking forward to the new location. The store owner said most of his business comes around Christmastime because of crowds coming to visit the Miracle of 34th Street lights, so he’s optimistic the market will be better for year-round sales.

For the 69th year, 34th Street in Hampden hit the switch to start the holiday season with its spectacular lighting display.

“I’m going to miss being in Hampden and all the people, but at least I’ll have another business [spot],” Matarazzo said. “The Dutch Market is always busy and there’s free parking unlike Hampden where it’s always a problem."

Julia McCabe, who has lived in Hampden for nearly 18 years, said she was upset to hear about another local shop leaving the area.

“I’m sad to see that neighborhood wasn’t able to support him,” McCabe said.

Within the past several years, McCabe said, she feels like there has been a higher turnover rate for stores along The Avenue — and that they’re not being replaced. The 41-year-old said there are many empty storefronts.

Hampden Village Merchants Association president Benn Ray said Razzo added a “unique” voice to the neighborhood and will be missed. But Ray added he did not believe the increase in rent was about pushing store owners out of the neighborhood.

“I understand that people love a tripling the rents gentrification panic attack type of narrative, but this doesn’t seem to be that kind of story,” Ray said in an email.

The Hampden Community Council did not respond to a request for comment.

Matarazzo said two years ago he signed a new contract with his landlord after they bought the property. Then, about three months ago he was notified about the shift in rent. He and his wife go to the Dutch Market regularly and started talking with the owner and the two ended up striking a deal.

Matarazzo said customers can’t miss his creations at the market. He’ll be the first merchant after walking in starting the first week in January at 1121 York Road.

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