“Call Calvert 1111!” Hochschild, Kohn & Co.’s ad in the Baltimore Sun presents a group photograph of their fleet of 51 delivery men serving the city and surrounding areas including Roland Park, Pimlico, Highlandtown, Halethorp, Towson, Parkville, Dundalk, Glen Burnie, Belair and Ellicott City. Couldn’t get downtown to the store? Having a thimble, a coat or a dining room table delivered is as easy as lifting your telephone receiver and making the request; a store truck would show up at your door within hours.
Hochschild, Kohn opens Baltimore’s first suburban department store at Edmondson Village in the city’s western section, to serve the residents of Hunting Ridge, Ten Hills, Rognel Heights, Wildwood, Westgate, Catonsville and Ellicott City.
Developed by Jacob and Joseph Meyerhoff on 10 acres of what had been the Hunting Ridge estate, Edmondson Village Shopping Center is one of the first regional regional suburban shopping centers built on the east coast. Built in the Williamsburg style and including a “parking plaza” for 800 automobiles, the center is called “unique in American city planning” by the Evening Sun. Besides the first Hochscild’s branch, the center includes Whelan’s Drugs, Hess Shoes, Food Fair, the Dugout Restaurant, the Princess Shop, a bowling alley, movie theater and a community meeting room. The center will suffer in 1958 when the Westview Shopping Center opens a few miles to the west, and in the 1960s, when the area is destabilized by rampant blockbusting; in the course of 10 years between 1955 and 1965, 20,000 whites flee the surrounding neighborhood.
Hochschild, Kohn is again on the frontiers of suburban shopping: the stunning Raymond Loewy-designed Belvedere branch opens at York and Belvedere Roads. Housing three selling floors covering 15,000 square feet, the branch carries every classification of merchandise carried by the downtown flagship except furniture, rugs, books and pictures. An adjoining “auto lot” can accomodate 150 cars, and the store offers amenities like a beauty salon and the Coffee Cup fountain shop on the lower level. Upon opening, The Sun reports that the new store was “swarmed by 2000 housewives and shoppers.” Assuming they weren’t looking for furniture, rugs, books or pictures…
Baltimore’s Big Brother of retailing, Hutzler Brothers, gets into the expansion act. The new Towson store opens at Joppa and Dulaney Valley Roads, overlooking what the credit department will dub “debt valley.” Originally built with three selling levels, the store requires the rebuilding of Joppa Road as a bridge along one side of the store with selling area underneath. The Evening Sun states that the store is “designed chiefly to meet the requirements of the automobile age, and an expanding suburban area, the new retailing center embodies two principal departures from traditional department store architecture:
1. One of the store’s main entrances fronts on a 1000-car parking lot.
2. Display windows have been eliminated because almost all traffic past the store will be vehicular, and the overall view of the [the activity] inside of the store is more effective.”
The Sun reports that “departments have been arranged in a series of intimate groups, each distinguished by its own color scheme, decoration and floor pattern, but flowing into each other with a fluidity uncommon in department store design.” Store president Albert D. Hutzler says that “the relatively large size of the store was designed to overcome the branch-store problem of having to ‘send downtown’ for merchandise suburban shoppers want.” The Valley View Room restaurant becomes a favorite with denizens of the valley and grandmothers everywhere. In 1967, a fourth shopping level is added.
The Hecht Co. makes its first foray beyond downtown with the opening of its Northwood store, “not a branch, but a complete department store,” to serve the northern suburbs. The unique design of the 160,000-square-foot store includes a rooftop parking deck, rooftop restaurant and “123 departments, carrying everything from safety pins to appliances.”
1955 (non-store related)
A series titled “Suburbia” that appeared in the Baltimore News Post, about the progress of suburban areas surrounding Baltimore, had this to say: “Reisterstown is like the rest in that respect; it has its problems. Not many, ‘tis true. As this is written— only four are talked about— in this order:
1. traffic congestion
2. sewerage facilities
3. additional schools
4. construction of a by-pass
The article also pointed out the lack of library facilities; the area was serviced by a county bookmobile.
Stewart’s expands to the county when it builds a 110,000-square-foot store on York Road at the city/county line. Built on two levels and surrounded by parking, the store is designed to “blend into the suburban area around it.” The design includes broad expanses of glass from floor to ceiling, “screened by Fiberglas curtains containing 600 square yards of materials.” Elaborate murals of Homewood House, the Washington Monument and the Federal Hill skyline decorate walls in the store, and a restaurant with a Chesapeake Bay theme becomes a destination for northern shoppers.
The old (Alex.) Brown family estate is razed and the 46 acres of land at Liberty Heights Ave. and Gwynns Falls Parkway is cleared for the erection of the Rouse Co.’s new Mondawmin Shopping Center. Three miles from downtown, the plot is determined to be within 25 minutes of three-quarters of Baltimore’s population. Containing 450,000 square feet of shopping space for 47 stores and parking for 4,500 cars, the named is derived from a Longfellow poem about the legendary Indian spirit of the cornfields. Anchored by a Sears Roebuck store, the open-air plan puts the storefronts on two levels around open courtyards and connecting walkways. The center becomes a national model for suburban store design, and is featured in Architectural Forum.
Hutzler’s and Hochschild, Kohn open at the new Eastpoint Shopping Center. The two department store anchors are connected by a series of open-air shopping plazas. Parking will accommodate 4,000 big-finned American cars.
The Hecht Co. marches west with its two-story, 150,000-square-foot Edmondson store. Featuring parking for 1,300 cars, the new store has a “garden-type” restaurant, a Hot Shoppe, beauty shop, complete men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessory departments, and home furnishings. Designing these suburban oulets is new territory for store designers, and one is quoted as saying “the interior decorations… try to give it the look of a specialty shop. In architect’s jargon, it is called ‘color-coordinated merchandising.’ The women’s fashion department will have four chandeliers growing out of columns, which will offer a dream-forest appearance. The children’s shoe department will have a circus motif, putting the child in the ‘center of the ring.’ The men’s department will have walnut panels and brass fixtures, setting a mood out of Greek mythology. Housewares will be displayed against a wall of Italian marble.” We’re left to wonder how dream-forest appearances and moods out of Greek mythology affected sales of housedresses and sack suits.
Harundale Plaza opens to the south and Westview Shopping Center opens on Rt. 40, a location picked in anticipation of the planned Baltimore beltway. When completed in 1962, the beltway’s intersection at Rt. 40 will carry the highest concentration of traffic in the Baltimore region. Hutzler’s opens its biggest suburban store to date at Westview— a three-floor white palace with a space-age cantilevered entranceway and, of couse, acres of parking.
Reisterstown Road Plaza opens. The largest regional shopping center in the Baltimore metro area at the time, the $20 million, 700,000 square foot center offers the equivilent of 12 city blocks of stores, open-air plazas and courtyards. Parking is provided for 4,000 customers of the new Hecht Co., Stewart’s and Food Fair stores. The open-air center will become an enclosed mall in 1975.
Glen Burnie Shopping Center and Eudowood Plaza in Towson open. Both centers will struggle in the shadows of nearby, more-popular centers— Glen Burnie facing competition from Harundale, and Eudowood from the plaza springing up near the Towson Hutzler’s. Eudowood contains a large Montgomery Ward and F.W. Woolworth, and will be renamed Towson Marketplace when it is enclosed in 1983.
Hutzler’s opens its Southdale branch on Ritchie Highway at Mountain Road in Anne Arundel County, with parking for 4,000 cars. The News American quotes Hutzler’s president saying, “we’re enthusiastic about growth potential in Anne Arundel County. The new store is set against a background of green woods, bordered on two sides by acres of parking space.”
Closer in, the Rouse Co. unveils its new Cross Keys complex, a series of offices, residences, a hotel and tony shops, all centered around a charming village green.
Stewart’s adds two more branch stores to service the expanding ‘burbs, at Timonium and Westview.
Rouse’s development of the new town of Columbia, southwest of Baltimore, continues with the opening of its “town center” (that’s “mall” to the rest of us). Anchor tenants are Woodward & Lothrop and Hochschild, Kohn.
Security Square Mall and Kenilworth Park open.
The east side welcomes Golden Ring Mall— 720,000 square feet of shopping space off the Beltway at Pulaski Highway. The Hecht Co., Stewart’s and Montgomery Ward anchor the center, but shoppers complain that the merchandise at Hecht’s and Stewart’s is deliberately downscale from their other suburban counterparts. Shoppers at Montgomery Ward can’t tell the difference.
On the west side, Hochschild, Kohn closes its once-revolutionary Edmondson branch, due to rising crime, declining sales, and the fact that most of its business comes from its stores further out— like its Security Square outlet.
Trouble in paradise: Hochschild, Kohn is dissappointed that shopping potenetial in Howard County isn’t growing as quickly as anticipated, and pulls out of the Mall in Columbia. The Hecht Co. opens its eighth Baltimore store in the space. The look is “Natural… natural woods, live plants and dry flowers.” The parquet wood floors take a beating from platform-shoed shoppers.
Hochschild, Kohn’s Belvedere store goes from a full-service department store to a “contemporary fashion store,” focusing on soft goods only. Good-bye, Coffee Cup.
Different approaches in downtown: Hutzler’s opens its Inner Harbor branch, just few blocks east of its Howard Street flagship, hoping to cash in on the impending opening of Harborplace; it flops, and closes by the mid-80s. Stewart’s, on the other hand, decides to flee the city entirely to concentrate on suburban business, and closes its once-grand store on Howard Street. All four local department store chains have experienced declining downtown business following the ‘68 race riots; Hochschild, Kohn is the next to abandon downtown, closing its flagship as well, its annual Thanksgiving Toy Town Parade but a vague memory.
Hochschilds clearly sees its future in the suburbs, and now has stores in North Plaza Mall, Reisterstown, Harundale and Kenilworth Park in Towson, in addition to its Security Square, Belvedere and Eastpoint branches.
Hecht’s throws in the towel on its Edmondson store, the once-beautiful building recycled as something called the Westside Skills Center. Sic transit gloria. Besides, Hecht’s will soon be expanding to Security Square and Annapolis.
After two window-smashing incidents, Hochschilds decides its easier just to brick up the long expanses of display windows on two sides of its Belvedere branch. No word on whether additional lighting is installed inside.
Hecht’s manifest destiny takes it north to the growing Belair suburbs, where it opens its Harford Mall store in a vacated Korvettes space.
Two more major malls are opened to serve the far-flung ‘burbs: Hunt Valley Mall, north of Cockeysville; and White Marsh Mall in Perry Hall. Interestingly, these areas will come to be renamed for the malls they contain.
While White Marsh flourishes with a Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Hutzler’s (and a Hecht’s and Lord & Taylor added later), Hunt Valley (opened with a Sears and Bamberger’s) stumbles along, perpetually underleased and devoid of shoppers. Bamberger’s becomes Macy’s, which closes within a few years. Parts of the mall are torn down and redone; discounters (and the inevitable Wal-Mart) move in. An air of desperation clings to the place like a bad stink.
The Hecht Co. opens a three-floor, $15 million store on Dulaney Valley Road, between Towson Plaza and Hutzler’s. That same year it makes a big commitment to downtown: it spends $3.5 million to renovate the 55-year-old flagship store at Howard & Lexington. Shopping square footage is reduced from 228,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet— more in line with its suburban stores. New department store construction, which once included a store restaurant as a matter of course, now bypasses this amenity, as apparently store customers no longer consume food or beverages, ever.
At Northwood Shopping Center, Hecht’s downsizes its circa-1954 store by half, leasing out the bottom floor to Hechinger. A few years later it will close this location entirely.
Stewart’s gives up the ghost and closes its five remaining suburban locations, the once-proud name fading into memory. Most of the stores are leased to Caldor, a discount chain that will itself go out of business a few years later.
Glamour comes to the northwest when the Owings Mills Town Center opens, housing the Hecht Co., Macy’s and Baltimore’s first Saks Fifth Avenue store; it’s also its last: Saks pulls out in 1996.
Between 1987 and 1989, the once-mighty Hutzler’s chain systematically closes nine locations, leaving only an ill-stocked Towson store that staggers to its death in 1990. Ironically, Hutzler’s president blames the chain’s failure on its downtown store, on which it had spent millions to renovate in the mid-80s.
Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie opens, drawing more shoppers away from the struggling older centers along Ritchie Highway.
The gleaming, new four-level Towson Town Center opens, incorporating Hecht’s and parts of the old Towson Plaza, along with a new glass atrium, palm trees and the area’s first Nordstrom (which does contain a store restaurant— apparently news hasn’t reached Seattle that this is a no). Ringed by stacks of parking decks, the mall gives new definition to “parking hell.”
Now dubbed Towson Place (nee Eudowood, Towson Marketplace), the 35-year-old plaza re-emerges as a big-box center, with Target, Marshall’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond and other national retailers. Montgomery Ward closes all its outlets, leaving the center with a major vacancy.
Meanwhile, over at White Marsh, not only does the mall continue to draw crowds, but a new collection of big box stores opens across the street, and on the perimeter of the mall parking lot, The Avenue at White Marsh debuts. A Disney-esque version of a traditional village mainstreet, the concept bizarrely succeeds— suburban shoppers ignore the fact that real village mainstreets actually exist. And this one has acres of parking for their minivans.
Once-hot Owings Mills Mall, suffering lagging drawing power, gambles by adding a major addition containing two more despartment stores: Sears and Lord & Taylor. Shoppers stay away in droves. Sears lasts a year; Lord & Taylor lasts two. Both are now vacant.
Twenty-five years after rising from a vacant tract, Golden Ring Mall is pulled down. The Hecht’s store, which when built, boasted “antique display cases, maritime relics salvaged from forgotten hulks in San Francisco, stuffed quail and copper-sheeted walls” is reduced to rubble. No word on whether any relics were salvaged from its forgotten hulk.
Redeveloped by the Cordish Co., Hutzler’s landmark Towson building now houses a collection of national retailers, including Pier One Imports, Home Elements, Barnes & Noble books, Country Curtains and Trader Joe’s. The irony that these stores basically comprise the departments of a department store is lost on everyone. There’s also a Balley’s Fitness Center— the department where you could once purchase your wedding silver is now occupied by someone’s sweaty butt.
Developers struggle to figure out ways to revitalize older centers that are past their prime. Current plans call for tearing down parts of Reisterstown Road Plaza and installing big box stores. At Westview, which has gone from open-air plaza to enclosed mall to big box center, plans are now being discussed to tear parts down, uncover the enclosure and add an outdoor, village mainstreet element, akin to The Avenue at White Marsh, much like the open-air plaza it was when built 45 years ago.