Baltimore City

Eddie's Market rallies Charles Villagers to resist potential competition on Hopkins lot

A long-vacant lot in the 3200 block f St. Paul Street, seen here in 2007, will be developed by Johns Hopkins University as a mixed-use project with retail and residential. But some residents are objecting to the idea of a grocer as an anchor, saying it could put Eddie's of Charles Village across the street out of business.

Barbara Gudenius has been shopping at Eddie's Market of Charles Village since she moved to the neighborhood in 1973.

"I like it now more than ever," said the retired Western High School teacher, 66, as she shopped for groceries Friday, March 15. "It's convenient and I'm lazy."

Then, seemingly out of the blue, she declared, "And we don't want that store up there."

Anyone who shops regularly at Eddie's, 3117 St. Paul St., knows what Gudenius is talking about. Developers of a proposed retail and apartment complex on Johns Hopkins University's vacant lot at 33rd and St. Paul streets are considering anchoring it with a grocery store that critics say may drive the 51-year-old Eddie's Market out of business.

"That does not compute with us," said Jo Ann Robinson, a member of Friends of Eddie's Market. Robinson was one of about 200 people who attended a public meeting March 12 at Saints Philip & James Catholic Church, where the university and its development team — Armada Hoffler and Beatty Development — laid out their vision for the lot.

"What would you do with the big empty space where Eddie's was?" asked Beth Bullamore, past president of the Charles Village Civic Association.

"Take this grocery store off the table," Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke urged the developers.

"We haven't made any firm decisions about what we're going to do," Alan Fish, the university's vice president for real estate and campus services told the crowd. A grocer is just one of many ideas that Hopkins and its developers are entertaining, he said.

"Have we decided we're going to do one? Absolutely not," said Tony Nero, president of Armada Hoffler.

"We're in a listening phase," said Michael Beatty, of Beatty Development.

Taking ideas

They urged residents to give them ideas for tenants, and got suggestions ranging from a movie theater to a day care center.

The audience seemed receptive to the developers' overall concept for a mixed-use development with stores and housing. The developers would streetscape St. Paul, make it pedestrian-friendly, and add a continuous, varied mix of retail.

They are also considering turning the Hopkins-owned Blackstone apartment building, across the street from the Homewood campus, into a hotel, they said.

Some residents questioned the need for an anchor.

"You would agree that Hampden is thriving. What's their anchor store?" Stephanie Repko asked rhetorically.

Residents made clear that they were not looking for a sleek, profit-driven mall in a neighborhood with a strong independent streak.

"I'm really not interested in how much money you can make," said resident Haakon Maxwell. "I'm interested in how our neighborhood can be served."

Not everybody was against another grocery store. Melissa Bristow said she's been disappointed by a lack of "vibrant retail" in the three years she has lived in Charles Village.

"I can fully understand the need for some kind of anchor tenant," even if it would be a grocery store near Eddie's, she said. "I would hope there would be a way we could support both."

Like family

Above all, the meeting pointed up how beloved Eddie's is and how much a part of the firmament of Charles Village it has become since it opened in 1962.

"Everybody here is like family," longtime employee Charles Lucas told the developers.

"It's like being in Mayberry. You know everybody," echoed store manager Ron Fader.

Jerry Gordon, owner of the family business, said he doesn't want to move to the planned mixed-use development, because his store is a fixture at its current location and has its own identity.

"Our market is the neighborhood," Gordon, 65, said after the 90-minute meeting. "We're there for the people who want the Village, the walkers."

He said the store has survived other supermarkets opening in the area in the past two decades, including a Safeway in south Charles Village and a Giant Food store in Waverly. But he said a grocer on the nearby lot would be too close for comfort. and is grateful that the community agrees.

"I think the developers got an earful tonight that they weren't expecting," he said.

Handing a cashier her debit card two days later, Gudenius questioned the need for a competing grocery store so close to Eddie's.

"They could open a drugstore there," she said. "A pharmacy would be fine."

Meanwhile, retired builder John Griffin, 74, was standing on line at the crowded deli counter.

"This store is wonderful," he said. 'It's so convenient. It's got every little thing."

"Hi, how are you?" retired Hopkins employee Selma Preston, 67, asked an employee, whom she recognized.

"I come here because it's really close and they five a 10 percent discount to students," said Burcu Atay, 20, of Turkey, who is majoring in International Studies at Hopkins.

Steady business

Eddie's draws 1,000 customers a day on average, said general manager Howard Glazer, who was taking inventory of bakery items.

He said many regulars come in the morning to eat bagels and drink coffee in a small cafe area by the front window.

"It's a great store for discussion," Glazer said. And he said store owner Gordon and his wife, Darlene, are very involved in the day-to-day operations, even sleeping there during 2010's twin snowstorms.

Despite shoulder surgery the day before, Gordon called briefly March 15 to check in with Glazer.

Glazer, who was worked for Eddie's for 16 years, said he realized how much of a family the store is after he had heart bypass surgery.

"Customers would call me at home and send me cards," he said. "It helped me recover."