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Catonsville’s 818 Market eyes late autumn opening, with expansive plans

Head chef Matt Milani stands in front of the 818 Market on Frederick Road in Catonsville, which is scheduled to open this fall.
Head chef Matt Milani stands in front of the 818 Market on Frederick Road in Catonsville, which is scheduled to open this fall. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

A 2018 flood set back the opening of the 818 Market on Frederick Road from its original fall of 2019 projection.

While the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with the economy and led to restaurant closures and complicated partial reopenings, it wasn’t enough to stop 818 Market co-owners Pat Baldwin and Dan Zakai and executive chef Matt Milani from forging ahead with their post-flood plans to open later this year.

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“We should be finishing up construction in mid- to late-September, and we think we have a four- to six-week time period for training and merchandising, which would be putting us right in that fall opening time-wise,” Baldwin said. “What we open as will have to be mindful of public health realities at the time.”

Current plans call for the market to include prepared foods, a bakery, café, deli, butcher shop and seafood counter on one side of the first floor and refrigerated and frozen encased items on the other side. Produce items will be in the center aisle. There will be a wine and cheese shop and restaurant on the second floor.

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Zakai, a practicing veterinarian who owns the Frederick Road Veterinary Hospital, which will share parking with 818 Market behind the building off Egges Lane, and Baldwin have been Catonsville residents for more than a decade.

They bought the building in 2017 for $1 million, according to online property records.

In May 2018, a catastrophic flood that damaged Ellicott City severely also did major damage in Catonsville. The original plans to restore the historic building, which was erected in 1935, were scrapped after 4 feet of water swamped the first floor.

A decision was made to tear down the building and replace it with a new structure, but the demolition was not done hastily.

With the aid of OE Custom, an Arbutus woodworking company, reusable wood was salvaged for various features, including stair runners, tables and display boxes.

“So that decision cost us some time, honestly, but I wouldn’t term it a setback,” Baldwin said. “I think it was just a decision that me and Dan and Matt all felt really confident with; that’s why we went with it.”

The flood and the addition of a liquor license in August 2019 also changed the original plans. They expanded beyond a grocery to include an upstairs restaurant and wine and cheese shop, while they doubled the space to 18,000 square feet.

Construction on the new building began last August under the guidance of general contractor Plano Coudon and KGRW & Associates architects.

They are preparing to open this fall even with new restrictions and health guidelines necessitated by COVID-19 in place.

Tile floors originally designed to be slick resistant and easily cleaned translated well to the COVID world, Baldwin said.

The pandemic, however, did force a change in some plans.

“We did do some upgrades to the filtration system on the HVAC, and from that perspective it happened at a really good time for us to be able to consider those things,” Baldwin said.

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The wine and cheese shop and restaurant upstairs give customers the opportunity to bring home what they already sample on the premises.

“You can come in and have that great bottle of wine that is recommended for you, and there is a wine shop where you can pick up a bottle to take home with you all in the same experience,” Baldwin said. “If you come in and have chef give you just the most amazing treatment of a filet, you can come in the next week, buy that same type of filet downstairs in the market and see what you can create on your own grill.”

Chef Milani is eager to implement some of his ideas when the restaurant opens.

“Right now, kind of a vision for us is we want to do about four menus a year with each season and probably change those up halfway through,” said Milani, who owned and was executive chef of the Rumor Mill Fusion Bar and Restaurant in Ellicott City with his wife, Lexi, from 2007 until significant flooding in 2016 forced its closure.

Milani, a 1994 Catonsville High graduate, was named 2012 Maryland Restaurateur of the Year.

“He was cooking in the Statehouse for Governor Hogan and his family for a reason, because he is really a world-class chef,” said Baldwin, who is looking forward to Milani displaying his cooking knowledge at some point. The desire is for Milani to eventually give in-person cooking demonstrations in the building.

“There are some great things that we want to do with the food,” Milani said.

The purveyance of plenty of food in the heart of Catonsville is what has Baldwin most excited.

“In Catonsville, people love supporting local businesses and some of the stats nationwide are so scary that you almost can’t comprehend them,” he said. “Then when you look locally, we have businesses that seem to be really thriving and customers who are finding ways to support them.”

A grand opening party is not in the immediate cards, but a celebration will be held at some point.

“One of these days we will have an opening party and it might be well after we open, but it will happen,” Baldwin promised.

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