You Tell Us: How Can North Baltimore's Small Business Climate Be Improved?

Patch wants to know what our readers think needs to happen to help small businesses thrive.

In some ways, North Baltimore's small business community has managed to weather the down economy remarkably well. 

From Belvedere Square to Hampden and Mount Washington, new businesses have opened despite a tight credit market and more people out of work with less disposable income.

But the economy has taken its toll and caused some businesses to go under.

So we want to know what you think needs to be done locally to help more entrepreneurs open shop in Charm City's northern neighborhoods.

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CharlotteMurray February 22, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Businesses change with the time. There are many great businesses in the Charles Village, Belvedere and Hampden business districts have have weathered many storms and thrived! The ones that close at any given moment do so for various reasons. One closes because the weather does not cooperate and interferes with major holidays. One closes because the area is flooded with other business that does the same thing for less money so it loses the competition. Others close because they have been languishing for years and finally give up. It does not all have to do with the "local" community but with the community at large. Hampden often has customers from New York, Washington, D.C. and Annapolis. Hampden has plenty of customers from the Hampden community and Woodberry and Govans and Roland Park. We are not islands in our communities. But as for value: it is more valuable to put money into a local small business in your neighborhood than it is to drive across town and put your money into a chain store's cash register because the local small business will then spend that money in your neighborhood (reinvestment) while the chain store will whisk that money off to accounts unknown and not really care much about value or customer or neighborhood. And one does not support bad business, bad service, bad price but why assume that that is all that is offered from small business? Why presume that the chain store is offering you this?
Gordon Steen February 22, 2012 at 11:34 PM
The city should suspend property taxes on retail space for a 3 year period for new, small retailers. The Inner Harbor gets tax breaks. Why not the neighborhoods?
daniel mcgarrity February 23, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Success is not easy, nor without a great many details..few of which are easily identified by citizens who are NOT small business owners. Ecomomic success would have 3 dimensions; the owners need for growth and profit, the community need for stable and consistent employment as well as advancement, and finally, the town's need for a stable and consistent tax payer-as defined by the owners profits, and the communities employment. Budget and nationally owned stores provide very little of the first two, and perform marginally on the third point. There may be a need for cheap socks, but the owner of a cheap stock store does not employ 3-10 people where at least 1 of them can work for 20 years and support a family. There to many competitors for a lower price to use this as a business model, sustainability should be the driving consideration when the city and state dole out tax abatements and deferments. More small communities like Hampden and Charles Village will thrive with long lasting privately owned businesses that employ people within 5-10 miles then those who solely provide goods or services to the same. Unique retail experiences are difficult to predict or plan, but they do rest on several simple ideals-Good service, fair price (not the lowest) and consistent good customer interaction. If all of those items are equal, then the goods or services offered must be of superior quality, or perceived scarcity that those in the know will travel from far away to get them
Able Baker February 23, 2012 at 06:05 PM
That's not really what he said. He said they were "old-school businesses that the community also failed to support". Nothing about the quality of the business, whether they provided good service, (or probably more importantly needed services), fair prices, etc. There's plenty of businesses in Hampden that are successful and supported by the community, why did these two fail? I know with Mr. Ray the answer is always 1. Walmart and 2. Walmart, but that seems simplistic. Having been a regular customer of New System, my guess is the extended shutdown when they moved from their spot on the Avenue, at least one change of ownership and complaints that they changed their recipes. As for whether a dollar store is something the community wants, why are we asking the guy who can't work a caps lock?
Steven Appel March 07, 2012 at 02:12 AM
I have a furniture store in Belvedere Square with a interior design studio. I find this conversation about North Baltimore business very encouraging. Back when we were on Charles Street 1987-2005 no one wanted to talk about each others business and the day to day challenges we faced as a community. Short and simple...owning your own business is tough. You have to constantly out fox the fox day to day in my business. It's so disheartening to go into a Homegoods and see one of my vendors selling off what I'm selling in my store for a fraction of the price to HG. That being said we travel to many shows to buy at and constantly change our merchandising mix to keep the customer coming back. I do find in Baltimore that if the customer can't find parking vy close to your store....they leave. That's why we left Charles St....or one of the reasons. Belvedere Square has its own opportunities and challenges. We have an amazing market...wine shop...bagel joint and much else...but our visibility is low and our downtown customers think they are driving across the Sahara Desert to get to us. Case and point....Baltimore customers want you easy and accessible to get to and that is hard where we are. We are supported greatly by the community around us...but we face challenges as well. We try to give the very best service, good prices that can somewhat compete with the online sharks....but I do wonder sometimes what the fate is for brick and mortar business's.


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