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Remington storefront challenge brings a fresh look to a neglected corner

Remington storefront challenge brings a fresh look to a neglected corner
An old gas station in Remington is being renovated for the artists collective Cahoots Brothers. The group consists of (from left) Warner Blak, Arvay Adams, Alex Bell, Gregory Morton and Kyle Johnson. (Alex Bell / For Baltimore Sun)

An old Cities Service gas station, later a pizza delivery service, is being transformed this summer along the busy 29th Street corridor in Remington. Look for Cahoots Brothers, located between The Dizz restaurant and the R. House, to open later this year.

The background needs to be told. There was a community competition to find a new use for what is a highly visible but aesthetically challenged corner. An ugly duckling 1940s filling station later made into a pizza shop was picked to be a makeover candidate for a vacant retail property.

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The Greater Remington Improvement Association picked a pair of retailers for two empty storefronts after retailers submitted their proposals. The winners, picked from 100 applicants, are getting two years of free rent.

Cahoots Brothers is an art collective of five guys who want to make a difference in doing what they do best.

Kyle Johnson is a goldsmith who now works on Read Street in Mount Vernon. Alex Bell is a ceramicist and photographer. Arvay Adams is a chain stitcher who currently works out of a Guilford Avenue garage near Union Memorial Hospital. Warner Blak grew up on Queensbury Avenue in Park Heights and works with his friend Kyle. And Greg Morton, who grew up on East Preston Street near Edison Highway and attended Polytechnic Institute and Morehouse College, is a financial adviser.

“Baltimore has shown me its good side and I’ve come home to it,” said Johnson, who was born in Petersburg, Va., and studied architecture at Morgan State University.

He speaks of taking jewelry “into a different realm” and mentions the designs of Louis C. Tiffany.

“When you visit the Walters Museum,” he said, “you see that Tiffany was not just a jewelry maker. And people like Tiffany inspired me. And I like it when I’m inspired and outside my comfort zone.”

His friend Warner Blak, who does marketing for Cahoots Brothers, described the mission: “We want to be the launch pad for local makers.”

Their aim is to make the corner of 29th and Remington into a retailing marketplace for non-traditional wares.

“I felt a kinship with these guys,” said Dan Wells, who owns the Old Bank Barbers in Hampden and Old Market Barbers in Remington and sat on the selection panel that picked Cahoots Brothers.

“They needed a break and they have the passion,” Wells said. “When they did their presentation to the Remington community, I saw the craftsmanship in their pottery, the jewelry and chain stitching — and was very impressed. Baltimore does not have the retail diversity it should. And I like the idea they are creating.”

Chain stitching, Arvay Adams explains, is the machine embroidery work that appears on sports jerseys, bowling shirts and industrial uniform clothing. He uses an 80-year-old sewing machine, a Singer 114-W, to affix the letters to “Bethlehem Steel” on workshirts. He studied painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art and changed careers about 18 months ago.

And while his Cahoots Brothers’ colleague mentions Tiffany, Adams reflects on Baltimore’s blue-collar industrial history, work clothes and recreational garb. He’s made replica jerseys for the Negro League, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad uniforms and numerous sports teams. He focuses on historic sports work and the World War II period.

The corner of 29th Street and Remington Avenue has an automotive history. The Cahoots Brothers site was the former Willis Cities Service gas station and before that a DuPont de Nemours chemical company warehouse. Jarmon Motors, which sold Pontiacs, was across the street in what is now the R. House. Another auto agency, owned by Guilford resident Charles Reeves, was across the street.

The Remington selection panel also picked Codex Club, owned by Andrea Chen, who makes printed products in a space at Remington Row, 2700 Remington Ave. Other sponsors in the challenge were the Johns Hopkins University, Seawall Development and the Howard Bank, in addition to the Remington neighborhood group.

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