Baltimore native to bring New York-inspired corner store to the heart of Hampden

After years of scaling the tech startup scene, a Baltimore native has turned her sights to delivering the communality and convenience of New York bodegas to Hampden this fall.

Tess Russell, a Baltimore native, is the one-woman show behind Prime Corner. The bodega-inspired store — just blocks away from the Avenue at 3400 Chestnut Ave. — will sell corner store staples like fresh produce, candy, coffee, snacks and “fancy toast”: slabs of bread smothered with toppings like cinnamon and sugar or almond butter and honey.

Russell spent the last decade in the software industry in San Francisco and New York. She said she’s always joked about opening a New York-style bodega, selling anything from eggs to umbrellas, outside of New York.

When she moved back to Baltimore in October, she realized that while Hampden has a diverse array of restaurants and bars, it doesn’t have any walkable grocery stores.

Russell decided to act on her ten-year-old dream of opening her own corner store when she noticed an empty storefront near her home.

“I saw the space, then I said, ‘I’m just going to look for fun,’” said Russell. She submitted a proposal to the landlord and was offered the space.

Russell is still looking for distributors and local vendors to help bring Prime Corner to life, but plans to incorporate a full-service deli counter and some of her favorite snacks, like kombucha and shrimp chips.

Russell will continue to renovate the space throughout the summer and plans to officially launch Prime Corner in September.

Russell handles all of Prime Corner’s operations, from marketing to startup costs. But she said her friends, relatives and even members of the Hampden community have stepped up to help.

“When new things come to Baltimore, everyone is excited and takes notice,” Russell said. “It’s not just a trend to support local business.”

Russell said she wants to use Prime Corner as a way to bridge the gap between old and new.

“You’ve got a younger audience saying, make sure you have lots of vegan and vegetarian options, and on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got older residents like, make sure I can get a ready-made, quick sandwich,” she said.

For Russell, it’s about striking a balance. “We can try stuff and if it doesn't work, we can shift pretty quickly.”

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