Mall to start pushcart marketplace oriented to blacks


In a merchandising effort designed to better serve its predominantly black shoppers, Rouse Co.-owned Mondawmin Mall said that it will start a pushcart marketplace inside its center court, where merchants will sell artwork, jewelry, clothing and accessories reflecting the history and culture of African-Americans.

Called the Kalimba Market, it will open June 14 with 18 shopkeepers, though the marketplace has room for 22, said Holly Hannon, Kalimba market manager. The market is named for the kalimba, a West African thumb piano composed of a sounding board made of wood and a number of metal or rattan tongues.

The Kalimba Market will be similar to the set-up at the popular Sam Smith Market at Harborplace, also owned by Rouse.

Entrepreneurs who have an interesting concept or design but virtually no business track record can lease the carts in the marketplace for one to six months.

The short-term leases allow new business owners to find out if their ideas will sell in a mall setting without as much financial risk as opening a store.

The short agreements also guarantee Mondawmin Mall an ever-changing variety of cart owners and wares to keep the look fresh and draw customers back to see what's new.

A sampling of some of the merchants who will operate carts at the Kalimba Market and their products:

* Diane Ruth Wharton, selling compact discs, tapes and posters of her world tour, "African Pop from the New World."

* International Fashions, selling traditional African clothing and accessories, including batiks and wax dyes. Fabric by the yard also will be available.

* International Treasures, selling African artifacts and musical instruments including the kalimba, masks, beads and statues.

* Leslie's Cosmetics, selling a cosmetic line designed by Leslie Joyner especially for black women.

All of the businesses that have signed up for the Kalimba Market so far are black-owned.

"We have had cart programs at Mondawmin Mall in the past, but none have been centered on a particular theme," Ms. Hannon said.

Ms. Hannon credits cart programs in general with helping to build the confidence level and business sense of new entrepreneurs. Several merchants who started out in Mondawmin Mall's past pushcart programs -- including the owners of Lemon Tree, Ballon Orchard and Rod Jones New Heritage -- have moved into store space at the mall.

The opening of the Kalimba Market is just one of many changes at Mondawmin Mall to better reflect the predominantly black Park Heights neighborhood it serves and to give business opportunities to the black community.

Over the last year, a major re-merchandising and renovation effort has added 11 new merchants, including Pyramid Books, a bookstore that offers books by and about blacks; Rod Jones New Heritage, selling ethnic-inspired designer clothing; and the Jesus Line, featuring Christian clothing, Bibles and gospel music.

A community room for social, business and political groups is scheduled to open at the mall in October. The room will be able to accommodate 100 people.

Mondawmin will hold a Kwanza celebration during the Christmas season.

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