Antique Row fears for future Crime, parking problems hurt shopping district


The slaying of one of their own has left several Antique Row merchants worried about the future of the historic shopping district, troubled in recent years by crime, parking woes and competition from shops in the suburbs.

"I've had people say they don't want to come down here because of the crime," said Nancy Duggan, co-owner of the Imperial Half Bushel silver shop at 831 N. Howard St. "Now, this will scare people off all over again."

Police said they have few leads in Saturday's shooting death of Richard Schocket, 47, who was slain during an apparent robbery at his store, the Howard Hardware House at 879 N. Howard St.

Mr. Schocket, who lived in the Pikesville area, was shot in the neck after one or two men entered the shop. He died on the floor of the family business that he had worked in since he was a child; police said his wallet is missing.

Relatives offered a $5,000 reward yesterday for information leading to the conviction of the killer or killers. They haven't decided whether to reopen the shop, which was closed yesterday and had a newspaper clipping about the slaying taped to the door.

"This town is becoming more lawless all the time," said Stuart Levine, Mr. Schocket's cousin.

Robert Wittman, the owner of Wittman's Oriental Gallery on Antique Row, said he was fed up with the crime -- such as smash-and-grab burglaries and robberies -- that he says has hurt the once-flourishing historic district.

One merchant moved away two years ago after his face was slashed by an attacker in his shop, Mr. Wittman said. Almost every shop has a buzzer to admit customers at the door and most close before nightfall.

Being sought "They're not going to attract people down here unless they do something about the crime," said Mr. Wittman, who has owned the shop for six years.

Mr. Wittman said Being sought many of the merchants are afraid to publicly admit how bad crime has become because they fear it will scare off more customers.

"But you can't scare people away any more than they already are. The shops are really hurting for business."

Merchants complained about not only the crime but parking meters on the row that require a quarter for every 20 minutes.

The row is a collection of about 50 shops lining a sidewalk with cast-iron street lamps and is part of an area the city hopes to revitalize. The area between the 300 and 800 blocks of Howard St. is to be renamed "The Avenue of the Arts" by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke on Tuesday.

The "Avenue of the Arts" plan would redevelop buildings into artists' studios and "is an attempt to breathe new life into that corridor," said Clinton R. Coleman, the mayor's spokesman.

"We're working to try and bring life back to that area," he said. "Clearly we've got some more work to do to help them [Antique Row merchants] out. We're hoping that Antique Row's best days are ahead of it and not behind it."

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