Butcher sues city, says Cross Street Market renovation killed 140-year-old business

As the fourth generation to work at his family’s butcher shop at the Cross Street Market, Brett Nunnally knew the aging facility needed renovation. He never thought, though, that Nunnally Brothers would get priced out of the upgraded marketplace.

Offered a lease that raised his rent but decreased his square footage, and after being told the shop would have to close during some of the renovation, the 140-year-old business left in November.

And now, it has followed nine other merchants in suing the city, saying the $8 million project put them out of business.

“They destroyed a legacy,” Nunnally said. “A lot of good, hard-working people worked there.”

Now 59, Nunnally was 14 when he began working at the business that his great-great-grandfather started.

“The Cross Street Market, at one time it was a great thing,” he said. “It went downhill. It needed help. But they didn’t need to put people out of business.

“They’re the tin man. They have no heart.”

The city turned the management and renovation of the market over to Towson-based developers Caves Valley Partners in November 2016.

“It was going to be like … Seattle, throwing fresh fish around,” Nunnally said disdainfully, referring to a practice of merchants at Pike Place Market. “Give me a break, it’s Baltimore City.”

When Nunnally Brothers rejected the proposed lease and left, they were given just 10 days to vacate, he said.

“I left behind a ton of stuff. I didn’t have warehouse, I couldn’t hire someone to break stuff down,” Nunnally said.

He now works at another family business, Package Deals Plus, on South Hanover Street, where he said he’s happy but it’s not quite the same. “I’m just an employee,” he said.

The market is slated to re-open in the spring, with a new slate of businesses and several of the former merchants. Others have relocated or, like Nunnally Brothers, closed up shop.

“All the good will and customer support built up over 140 years in business have been lost,” the lawsuit said.

“These are mom and pop businesses. There’s not a chain among them,” said John C. Murphy, the attorney who represents the merchants suing the city and the Baltimore Public Markets Corporation. “This is a city market, and all these merchants were thrown out.”

Nunnally Brothers’ suit argues that it qualifies for relocation expenses as a “displaced person” because it had to vacate the market as a result of the renovation. It seeks $250,000 in damages.

A spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh said she could not comment on pending litigation.

While suits filed by other merchants have largely been unsuccessful, the Court of Appeals recently agreed to hear the appeal of one shopkeeper, Wireless One.



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