Following the money Royal Furniture: After 106 years in West Baltimore, city store relocates to Columbia.

December 26, 1997

ROYAL FURNITURE Co.'s decision to leave West Baltimore after 106 years is another blow to the city. Sixty-five sales, office and warehouse jobs will move to the suburbs when the high-end retailer relocates its main store to Columbia.

Royal, a fourth-generation family business, is following the money. That's understandable. But its departure underscores how shopping choices are steadily narrowing with the middle-class exodus from Baltimore.

Not only has the city lost all major department stores, but many residents find it increasingly difficult to find everyday hardware items or books. The once-thriving furniture retail and manufacturing sector, a barometer of middle-class values, has been decimated.

Gone are such regionally famous downtown stores as Potthast, Biggs, Lears and Fallon & Helen, which sold pieces that are still handed down from one generation to another. Among the few extant quality furniture stores are old-timers. Littlepage's, founded in 1893, still clings to its location at 1317 West Baltimore Street. The corner of Pratt and Mount streets is occupied by Stafford Bros, a family operation that started in 1900. Shofer's, in existence for more than 80 years, remains in Federal Hill. They are relics of what used to be a furnishing industry that made Baltimore famous.

Royal Furniture's departure will leave its buildings near Wilkens Avenue and Monroe Street empty. Whether they will be recycled is in doubt. The surrounding area has steadily deteriorated and redevelopment of a larger, more desirable nearby site, the old Montgomery Ward warehouse, has been difficult.

Inadequate interstate access is one reason the area is in such dire straits. I-95 is just blocks away but its interchange at Washington Boulevard was never completed. The Schmoke administration should see to it that ramps are added so the Carroll Park warehouses and industries can realize their full potential.

Pub Date: 12/26/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.