New on North Charles

Focus On Shopping

March 03, 2002|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

North Charles Street in the Mount Vernon area is a slice of Baltimore that ridicules the conservative, blue-collar town stereotype. The handsome townhouses lining the street have been converted to vintage shops, upscale boutiques, elegant galleries and ethnic shops. Recently new places have opened, and older ones have spruced themselves up and expanded. You can't beat the mix for an intriguing afternoon of shopping.

These few blocks are also packed with some of the city's best restaurants, so plan to start your trip with lunch or end it with drinks or dinner.

The only negative? Parking can be a problem, particularly on a weekday. There are parking lots, but your best bet may be to bring quarters and plan to park on the street. If you're willing to walk a few blocks, you can usually find a meter.

Here's a sampling of shops and galleries in the 500 to 1000 block of North Charles. Call first to find out when they're open:

A People United

516 N. Charles St.

410-727-4470

This multi-ethnic boutique will surprise you. You wouldn't think clothing so globally responsible and eco-friendly could be so beautiful. Case in point: the Red Dragonfly label's silk brocades. Also, check out the new Indo-Asian furniture gallery downstairs.

The bottom line: Your purchases help craftspeople in developing nations not only survive but also thrive.

Beadazzled

501 N. Charles St.

410-837-2323

This is the Saks Fifth Avenue of vintage and modern beads and supplies for jewelry making or collecting. It's also a gift and accessories shop with ethnic crafts for sale.

The bottom line: Where else can you get gemstones, antique Venetian and African trade beads, and beads made of horn, porcelain, bone and shell?

C. Grimaldis Gallery

523 N. Charles St.

410-539-1080

Grimaldis does one thing, and does it well. No frames, no posters, no mirrors. Just art. Baltimore's oldest contemporary gallery has 11 exhibits a year.

The bottom line: Owner Constantine Grimaldis says he tries to be as close to the cutting edge as is possible in Baltimore.

Cherry Tomato

815 N. Charles St.

410-332-9917

Not only does this new boutique specialize in fun girly-girl clothes from independent designers you won't find elsewhere, it carries only one in each size.

The bottom line: You probably won't run into anyone else wearing the same dress.

Craig Flinner Gallery

505 N. Charles St.

410-727-1863

Two 20th anniversary exhibits that open March 7 -- one of French impressionists, the other of Baltimore artists interpreting the city -- illustrate the gallery's range of antique and contemporary art. Custom framing is also a specialty.

The bottom line: Best-known for its collection of antique French posters.

Dreamland

1013 N. Charles St.

410-727-4575

This musty basement is packed with vintage fashions from the '20s through the '70s. Not to be missed are the sections of little black dresses, kimonos, leather jackets and tuxes.

The bottom line: Disco is the hottest vintage look going, and stayin' alive is easy with Dreamland's '70s treasures.

Firma

521 N. Charles St.

410-547-1124

If you just want a suit, go to a department store. If you want owner Delgardo Darby's help in making you look as if you stepped out of GQ, shop at Firma for a fine Italian suit and the proper accessories to dress it up or down.

The bottom line: Contemporary European menswear with an emphasis on service.

Foot Fetish

525 N. Charles St.

410-962-8080

If new shoes cure your blues, check out the incredibly funky (and expensive) European lines available at this hip new shop. Italian shoes for both men and women are a specialty.

The bottom line: When you just have to have those plastic Gucci slides for $100...

Meredith Gallery

805 N. Charles St.

410-837-3575

The heart sculpture with wings in the window will draw you in -- or is it a chair? Part fine art, part decorative art, these one-of-a-kind tables, chairs and accessories are meant to be collected, enjoyed -- and used.

The bottom line: You won't find a better place in Baltimore to get educated about the appeal of art furniture.

Nouveau Contemporary Goods

519 N. Charles St.

410-962-8248

Curvy sofas. A round red table. Wildly opulent pillows and whimsical accessories. The city's best modern furniture store has never heard that less is more. Thank goodness.

The bottom line: An eclectic mix of deco antiques and just-now home furnishings.

Steven Scott Gallery

515 N. Charles St.

410-752-6218

This small, friendly gallery represents 20 contemporary American artists at various stages in their careers. Seven of them, all Marylanders, will be featured in the exhibit "Local Color" opening March 7.

The bottom line: The specialty here is realist painting and printmaking, but photography and sculpture are part of the mix.

Zena's

1014 N. Charles St.

410-783-0088

Ah, luxury: Getting an aromatherapy facial in what was once an elegant townhouse with marble fireplaces, ornate chandeliers and carved woodwork.

The bottom line: A full-service downtown spa and salon with a neighborhood feel.

The Zone

813 N. Charles St.

410-539-2817

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