The Avenue Grows Up

From painted screens and beehive wigs to designer bags and 18th-century antiques, 36th Street in Hampden has emerged as a charming -- and thriving -- mall alternative.

Focus On Shopping

May 30, 2004|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,Special to the Sun

It wasn't so long ago that Hampden got noticed for having a handful of antiques stores, galleries and kitschy shops dotting the area around 36th Street, more famously known as the Avenue.

On a recent stroll down the Avenue, it became gloriously apparent that shopping in this former mill village has evolved, grown up, expanded -- especially in recent years. Sure, Hampden still has its share of kitsch (beehive wig and leopard print 3/4 -length gloves at Hometown Girl, anyone?). But there's also a proper tearoom (Finnerteas), a pet store (Chow, Baby!), a shop specializing in 18th and 19th century French country antiques (Bastille) and a children's consignment store (eieio).

There are now choices galore up and down the Avenue and in the few blocks abutting 36th at Falls Road and Chestnut Avenue. These are small stores, not mall stores. Many have galleries featuring artwork by local artists. Some are downright funky. All are one-of-a-kind.

"It's like we've connected the dots," says Susanna Siger, who opened her first store, Oh! Said Rose, on the Avenue in 1997, and her second store, Ma Petite Shoe, a few doors away, about two years ago. "Before, people really had to find the gem in the block. Now they can shop the whole Avenue."

Bastille

3620 Falls Road

410-338-0506

This store specializes in French country antiques, and some of the armoires look big enough to fill a castle. The woods gleam with fine carving and gorgeous details. And smaller pieces, like an authentic hotel lantern sign circa 1830, would lend panache to any home.

* Don't miss: A 95 1/2 -inch-tall 18th-century Louis XV walnut armoire. For $10,100, a person can certainly dream.

Hanging on a Whim

3610 Falls Road

410-467-3233

Pottery, painted furniture, decorative glass, jewelry and tote bags are for sale in this small, airy shop. Take a class in painting furniture. Or buy a sky-blue chest bedecked in flowers and tell everyone you made it yourself.

* Don't miss: Mirrors studded with doll china brighten a little girl's room for a mere $38.

Passion Fish

1129 W. 36th St.

410-925-4133

Those stills from The Incredible Mr. Limpet in the sand-and-toy-filled front window certainly draw a person inside this small vintage toy and ephemera shop and art gallery (named for the John Sayles film). Once inside, you'll stay to peruse the Pez dispensers, Little Orphan Annie dolls and vintage liquor decanters, meticulously and lovingly displayed.

* Don't miss: The semi-circular orange vinyl bar with the shag stools isn't for sale, but it's certainly a cool way to show off toys.

Whiskey Island Pirate Shop

1005 W. 36th St.

410-235-9501

Mick Kipp makes a mean smoked corn and Maryland blue crab salsa, which you can taste and buy at his Maryland specialty food store next to Hometown Girl. He also sells Maryland common crackers, local honey, jams and maple syrup, not to mention the entire Whiskey Island line of grilling sauces, salsas, hot sauces and spices.

* Don't miss: Mick's 'Mazin Crab and Smoked Corn Salsa, $6, tastes like summer in a bottle.

Avenue Antiques

901 W. 36th St.

410-467-0329

Located in the old G.C. Murphy store, this three-story antiques mall features everything from Scotty dog pitchers to $2,300 antique Hoosier cabinets. The Pearl Gallery, a mainstay on the Avenue for years, has moved to a lovely spot on the second floor.

* Don't miss: The basement store, known as Decades, arranges antiques by decade, leaving one to wander from 1910 (Murray metal toy tractor, $80) straight on to the '80s (Loverboy LP, $3).

Oh! Said Rose and Ma Petite Shoe

840 W. 36th St. and 832 W. 36th St.

410-235-5170 and 410-235-3442

From flirty halter dresses and pink flamingo hair accessories to lighthouse-print pants that scream preppy with an attitude, Oh! Said Rose has a cool selection of women's clothes, accessories and retro baby gifts. Sister store Ma Petite Shoe, a few doors down, sells funky shoes and fine French chocolates. Now what could be better than that?

* Don't miss: Oh! Said Rose's "bad girl room" is filled with Elvis LP shoulder bags, bowling shirts and vintage-inspired cowboy prints.

MataWood Creations

820 W. 36th St.

410-467-6500

Retired city police officer Tom "Razzo" Matarazzo sells window screens that he paints with images of beloved family pets, scenes of Baltimore, lighthouses and more. If it's nice out, you just might find Razzo painting outside on the sidewalk in front of the store, while his wife, Angie, crochets and minds their cheery shop.

* Don't miss: Nothing says Baltimore like a small screen painted with the original Washington Monument, $45.

Minas Gallery and Boutique

815 W. 36th St.

410-732-4258

Vintage clothes have never looked as good as they do in Minas all arranged by color and style, neatly hung and folded. We love the men's straw boaters and the little black dress rack, not to mention the wall of vintage jeans, books by local authors and the upstairs gallery of this store, which recently moved from Fells Point.

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