Attention Walmart shoppers: This retailer could kill your hipster future

As mayor courts big-box store, director John Waters says a Remington outlet would kill neighborhood's potential

May 26, 2010|By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

Busting unions, destroying Main Streets. That's the stuff Walmart usually gets accused of doing. But director John Waters warns that the world's largest retailer could be up to something even more sinister: killing a latent hipster vibe.

"Walmart will kill Remington from ever being a hipster neighborhood," Waters told The Baltimore Sun's Michael Sragow in the course of an interview on Waters' new book, "Role Models."

"I hate Walmart," Waters said. "I know it gives people jobs, which is a good thing, but I don't think it treats its employees well, and it's one of the biggest censors of R-rated or NC-17 movies, or cutting-edge CDs, in the world."

Waters was talking about a plan to put a Walmart on the former Anderson Automotive site on Howard Street. His comments appeared in the paper last weekend, just as Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was out in Las Vegas, hobnobbing with Walmart honchos and other retailers at an annual shopping center convention.

On some level, Waters' comments surprised me. Shouldn't somebody known as the Pope of Trash give his blessing to Walmart, big-box temple of made-in-China merchandise, including coffee makers recalled just last week because they were bursting into flame?

"I thought you liked tacky!!! What gives?" I asked Waters via e-mail.

While I was at it, I asked Waters for his stance on Chez Target, another retailer Rawlings-Blake was reportedly courting.

And what about the stripper-mobile? What's Waters' position on the rolling pole-dance attraction that cruised around Camden Yards on Opening Day and again during Preakness? (Hustler Club manager Victoria Reichenberg tells me the vehicle has headed west to California, so Baltimore has seen the last of it for a while.)

Waters declined to weigh in on the stripper-mobile or Target. Nor did he want to discuss Walmart further.

"I'm going to take a pass on all these," he e-mailed me.

He'd already said enough to raise the ire of H.L. Goldstein of Towson, who had a letter to the editor published in The Sun.

"Mr. Waters must be spending all of his life in North Baltimore these days," Goldstein wrote. "A quick drive through Remington would show him that there are virtually no places for residents to shop, with or without Hon hairdos. There are few or no centers in Remington for housewives, kids, weirdoes and old drag queens to hang out."

If Walmart steps in to fill that void, let's just hope the buyers back in Arkansas know what drag queens and Hons are wearing.

Not everyone screams for ice cream

South Mountain Creamery handed out free samples of ice cream at the Waverly Farmers' Market on Saturday. Life can't get much better than that, right? Free ice cream. All's right with the world.

Unless you're the ice cream giver, who's giving the stuff out to make a point, because he's not allowed to sell it in pints and quarts at the market. Or you're the farmers' market honcho who banned the sales and feels like the giveaway was intended to make him out to be the bad guy.

I've been trying to reach South Mountain since I was tipped off to the Waverly ice cream kerfuffle last weekend, but no one has called back. (It is a dairy farm, so they're probably a little busy.) I had better luck with Marc Rey, president of the farmers' market board.

"I'm rather angry at the man who owns South Mountain," Rey said.

Back in February, South Mountain applied to the market's board to sell hand-dipped and bulk ice cream along with its other milk products, Rey said. The board approved the hand-dipped sales but voted against the pint and quart sales because two other vendors were already lined up to sell ice cream or sorbet in bulk, he said.

The market tries not to have too much duplication in specialty products, Rey said. Otherwise, the vendors couldn't do enough business.

"Twelve people can have asparagus and all sell out because there's that much demand," he said. "But there's some commodities that there's not so much demand for."

South Mountain could have appealed that decision to the board, but it never did, Rey said. So Rey assumed South Mountain had accepted the verdict — until Saturday, when people who'd just enjoyed a free ice cream started buttonholing him at the market, asking why he was picking on South Mountain.

"We sent him a formal communication today saying, 'We'll still give you a chance if you'd like to appeal before the board, but you are not to incense the customers as if you're being discriminated against,' " Rey said.

South Mountain might be able to make a better case for selling bulk ice cream now, because the guy who was lined up to sell sorbet decided to move back to Trinidad, Rey said. Now there's only one vendor, Brooms Bloom Dairy, selling packaged ice cream.

Perhaps South Mountain and the market board can work something out.

And if they can't, let's hope the free ice cream keeps coming.

Hmm, who could be the target of that?

Baltimore County Councilman Vincent Gardina has proposed a bill that would prohibit convicted felons from registering with the county as lobbyists. I haven't been able to reach Gardina, but I did hear from the man who assumes he's the bill's target: Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who was convicted of mail fraud in 1995.

Bereano said he has very few dealings with Baltimore County, but as a lobbyist for the tanning industry, he opposed Gardina's recent efforts to keep teens out of tanning salons.

"Only dealings I've ever had with him in my life," Bereano said. "I was just doing my job — professionally. … My conviction was over 15 years ago, you know what I mean? I'm not angry. I just think he's a pathetic individual."

laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

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