Awaiting market's makeover

Cross Street patrons are eager to shop and vendors are eager to open after renovations

September 24, 2005|By Sarah Abruzzese | Sarah Abruzzese,Sun reporter

Roy Rogers sat in the Cross Street Market drinking a beer yesterday waiting for Nick's Inner Harbour Seafood restaurant to reopen.

At the same time, workers rushed to put the finishing touches on a $1.3 million renovation to the Federal Hill market and restaurant that began in July and was to be finished by last night.

Nick's owner, Tommy Chagouris, used the opportunity to rebuild the popular drinking spot, which reopened yesterday afternoon.

Rogers, 69, of Annapolis visits the market at Light and Cross streets once a week to meet friends from the old neighborhood. Yesterday, he reminisced about his childhood, when he and his friends played basketball on the floor above the market.

A grand reopening with bands is scheduled for next month.

"We want to come out in style and celebrate," said Anna Epsilantis, the owner of Big Jim's Deli.

Five of the city's six markets are undergoing renovations. Yesterday, workers scurried to complete the cosmetic work on the outside and get Nick's open in time for a Federal Hill street festival tomorrow. Customers, able to walk the full length of the market for the first time in months, visited in droves.

"It's like a madhouse today," Rogers said.

Michael Phillips, 32, and Gregory McCoy, 30, bought sausages, doughnuts, cake and chicken gizzards from vendors.

"We stopped at the bakery, the fish spot, the chicken spot and the little knicknack stand and bought a couple hats. We stopped at about five stores," Phillips said, adding that the market offers a "vast variety of foods you can't get around the way. You can get them over here."

The two maintenance men hadn't been to the market in a while, but both are longtime customers. Eating his sausage, McCoy said they "figured we'd try to clog the arteries up today."

Because the Charles Street entrance was blocked, some vendors said they think customers stayed away believing the entire market had closed.

Brett Nunnally, who owns Nunnally Brothers Choice Meats, took the opportunity to reorganize and get rid of some of the clutter that had accumulated.

He said people were calling while the construction was taking place to make sure he was still open.

Vendors said they are happy renovations are nearly finished, and they can get back to selling their seafood, baked goods, meats, produce, flowers and chocolates unimpeded by construction.

The South Baltimore market has been in various locations since the 1840s.

Bill Crosby, 54, recalled when the then-wooden market burned down in 1951. He said his father, who worked for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., was called out to cut power to the building. Crosby said his father made it out of a manhole cover just before a large part of the building collapsed.

The new steel-and-concrete building opened 18 months later, and there hadn't been a major renovation since then.

Yesterday, workers Sideir Rangel and Marcio Pinto were up on scaffolding smoothing concrete into place on the new entranceways, which are being spruced up with new retro-style brick facades.

Inside, new flooring and lighting have been installed throughout the building.

"We totally leveled the place," said Chagouris, the owner of Nick's. "This place is completely different."

But in many ways, it's not. It still has the same traditional market feel, and people have already told him, he said, that it "looks like it's always been here."

sarah.abruzzese@baltsun.com

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