Longtime Federal Hill shop moving on to share in yet another area's revival

Antique furniture dealer Gaines McHale to be near 4 Seasons in Harbor East

September 06, 2005|By Rhasheema A. Sweeting | Rhasheema A. Sweeting,SUN STAFF

After watching the upscale transformation of its longtime base in Baltimore's Federal Hill, antique furniture dealer Gaines McHale is preparing a move to Harbor East, the latest city neighborhood undergoing a transformation.

"We wanted to be a part of a resurgence of the area," owner Jean McHale said of her company's new location in the E.J. Codd building at 700 Caroline St.

The antique store, set to open Saturday, is one of several arrivals to the developing downtown neighborhood. The building already is home to Pazo, a Mediterranean restaurant, and a 9,000-square-foot spa and salon called Spa Sante. A Four Seasons hotel and condominium complex is rising nearby.

"We are very excited to have Gaines McHale as an anchor in our project," said Michael S. Beatty, vice president and principal for H&S Properties, one of the companies developing the building. "They join Four Seasons, which will soon break ground, in providing an upper- end stamp of approval for Harbor East."

Jean and her husband, Mike McHale, the company's chief operating officer, spent almost four years looking for the right place to move their shop.

"It's really on the verge of one of the greatest renaissance in the history of the city," Mike McHale said of the new location. "We wanted to take the lead and be a focal point of the city."

The new building will allow better room displays of furniture, he said. The showroom is about one-fifth larger with ceilings as high as 45 feet, nearly four times taller than the old location.

Jean McHale, a former music teacher who wanted to run her own business, launched the shop 25 years ago. Fascinated by antique furniture from Europe, she made a trip overseas in the early 1980s to get a crate of antique furniture to sell, sight unseen.

"We had no idea what was in that box," she said. "It was like Christmas."

She began selling furniture in a space in the Cockeysville Fire Department building before moving to Federal Hill in 1987.

"We were pioneers here," said Jean McHale, referring to the move to 836 Leadenhall St. just as Federal Hill's own resurgence as a place for young professionals took root.

"There was only one hanging light and downtown was dead," she said.

The company said its customers come from around the region. The store seeks to make antique pieces more functional for today's lifestyles. For example, the company redesigned a French armoire to accommodate a flat-screen television, and another for wine storage and display.

"It's about creating new and making people happy but not cutting down a forest to do it," Jean McHale said.

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