Chanel boxes were stacked in the corner of 2 Chic Boutique, an upscale secondhand store owned by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who announced Monday she was taking an indefinite leave of absence from office. But the door of the Pigtown boutique was locked, and two women who entered the building Wednesday afternoon declined to answer a reporter’s questions or to allow entrance into the shop.
Groupon and Living Social coupons for the store were available for purchase that day — $12 for $25 worth of clothes. According to the Groupon listing, the shop specializes in “gently used and new designer clothing” with labels including Dior, Gucci and Valentino. Saturdays bring complimentary mimosas, the listing stated.
But on Wednesday afternoon — a time when, according to the Groupon website, the store should have been open — you couldn’t get inside the door. No one answered the phone at the boutique.
A spokesman for Groupon, Nicholas Halliwell, said the company would pause the promotion while they investigated the boutique’s hours following inquiries from a Baltimore Sun reporter. They said 14 Groupons had been sold but all except the one purchased by a reporter had expired or been redeemed or refunded. No one had purchased a Groupon since December.
By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the statuses of the Groupon and Living Social deals had been updated to “not yet available,” and the listing noted that “store hours are limited,” advising customers to check its website prior to visiting.
Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, who owns a 22 percent interest in the boutique, said the Groupon and Living Social coupons were being sold by mistake and that she would check to see why they were still being offered. She said the business was open by appointment only.
“I don’t think they have the wherewithal to man it properly,” said Frieda Ulman, who serves as the marketing and special events manager for the nonprofit Pigtown Main Street, two doors down from the boutique.
The boutique opened in late 2013 and, Ulman said, kept more regular hours of operation in prior years, opening both to the public and to customers who made appointments. However, she noted the store’s hours have dwindled recently.
Pugh is on paid leave from her mayoral duties as she faces illness and a mounting scandal regarding her sales of the “Healthy Holly” children’s book to various institutions.
“I do know that the rent is being paid,” Ulman said. “The landlord is not one to let things ride.”
Landlord Marc Smith confirmed that the rent was, indeed, being paid. He did not, however, know when the shop would be open again, even after stopping by Wednesday to check on some repair work.
“Everything’s fluid,” he said. “They’ve been there a long time.”
“Catherine [Pugh] hasn’t been involved with the business since she was elected mayor,” Smith said. Pugh’s name, however, is the only one officially associated with the business on articles of organization, and Pratt said Pugh is still chief owner. Pugh did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Pugh is listed as “director emerita” of the board of Pigtown Main Street, according to the nonprofit’s website. “She was really involved with the community when she was a state senator,” Smith said. “Unfortunately we lost her to the mayor.”