Entrepreneurs banking on the under-21 crowd

Nightspot: Two men preparing to open a dance club for young patrons in the old Finkelstein's building say Towson is the perfect spot.

May 11, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Until it closed in 1994, Finkelstein's was a landmark in downtown Towson, a place to go for high-quality sportswear -- brands like JanSport, Timberland, Gant and Duck Head.

But none of that matters to Carl Yungmann and Bob Schmuff or to the teen-agers they hope to attract to a new under-21 dance club they're opening in the old Finkelstein's building. This time, the name brands in demand will be Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys.

Generation Xtremes will open May 18 in the 400 block of York Road, where the clothing store was in business for six decades. Not only will Xtremes be the only nightclub in the area catering to the young, but it could give Towson's night life a boost.

"Teen-agers have long been seen as less than desirable," said Schmuff, 49, a Pasadena resident who owned an Anne Arundel County nightclub. "They're not wanted in the malls. They're not wanted on the streets. They have nothing to do.

"Nobody wants them," Schmuff said. "Well, we'll take them. They've been a neglected market for too long."

Yungmann and Schmuff see potential everywhere.

Whether the teen-agers are hanging out in front of the movie theater or strolling along the streets of Towson in the evening, the two club owners see kids with money to burn and nothing to do.

They have pumped $300,000 into redesigning and decorating the Finkelstein's building, which has been empty for about five years except for a short-lived stint as a teen billiard hall.

This week, a sign in the window announced: "COMING SOON."

Inside, workers in the past few days drilled walls for a sign and put finishing touches on futuristic metal tables and counters.

Workers also tested a laser system that projected multicolored lights onto the aluminum dance floor and a 16-foot wall of 30 television screens that played the latest music videos.

The club will also have a concession stand, a game room and a bar serving juice, sodas and health drinks.

The club's decor, with an extreme-sports theme, will include Jet Ski, snowboard, motorcycle and rock-climbing exhibits.

"We've done teen nights at the old club, and it was very successful," said Yungmann, 30, who managed A.L. Gators in Riviera Beach for Schmuff. "We had 500 kids come from Towson, Baltimore and all over on a Wednesday night. We started thinking about how many kids would come to Towson on a Friday and Saturday night."

When the two started scouting for a location, they chose Towson instead of warehouselike complexes in Owings Mills, White Marsh, Randallstown and Glen Burnie.

The vacant store is in a downtown area, two colleges are nearby, and there isn't much competition.

"Towson gives parents a sense of security," Yungmann said. "It's reputable and established. There are also a lot of restaurants and places that parents can go around here when they drop off their kids at the club. That was an important part in choosing Towson."

The thought of gaining an occupant for the empty Finkelstein's store makes local business officials happy, but the thought of hundreds of kids wandering around Towson has some worried.

Some are concerned that the youths might get unruly.

That teens might end up hanging around outside the club to smoke. That traffic might get worse on York Road because of parents dropping off children.

That there might be a repeat of what happened at Liquids, a defunct after-hours nightclub in Loch Raven where hundreds of drunken teens brawled, partied and hung around the neighborhood until 5 a.m.

"It seems like a good plan, but I do feel a little apprehensive about it," said Baltimore County Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, who represents Towson. "There are some businesses around town that are a little leery of the idea. You know, because we've heard it all before, and then we had trouble. But hopefully, this will turn out nice."

Yungmann said about 15 security guards will be posted to make sure teens are not loitering. Parents will be required to drop off their children at the back of the building to avoid interfering with traffic on York Road.

No alcohol will be served or allowed in the club, and anyone who wants to go outside to smoke will not be allowed back in without paying a $10 readmission fee.

The co-owners say they have assured skeptics that they will join the Towson Business Association, hold charity benefits and work to become part of the community.

They have talked with Skinner and county police about safety when the club is open, Thursday through Sunday nights.

Other days of the week will be reserved for private functions such as bar mitzvahs, graduations and birthday parties.

Another question is whether teens will deem Xtremes cool enough. The club's neighbors are hoping they will.

"It could benefit us," said Charlie Heintzelman, manager of Angel's Grotto next door. "We need some downtown, nighttime, interesting things. It sure beats what was there before, which was absolutely nothing."

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