Former C-Mart moving to Cockeysville

Store leaves Harford County home after 35 years

  • Keith Silberg has moved the old C-Mart from Harford County to Cockeysville and renamed it Isennock Big TARP Auction Center and Company Store.
Keith Silberg has moved the old C-Mart from Harford County to… (Colby Ware / Special to The…)
January 18, 2011|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The bargain basement outlet once known as C-Mart has gone through a number of incarnations over the years, briefly shutting down and changing its name.

And now the retailer, which once attracted a loyal following of frugal shoppers looking to fulfill their high-end tastes at a deep discount, is going through one of its biggest changes yet. It's getting a new address in Baltimore County after 35 years in Harford County.

The old C-Mart, now named Isennocks Big TARP Auction Center and Company Store, is leaving its nearly life-long digs in Forest Hill for Cockeysville. The retailer will open a 30,000-square-foot building on York Road at the end of antique row on Wednesday.

Keith Silberg, whose uncle and father opened C-Mart in Harford County in the 1970s, said he was looking to move closer to the retailer's core customer base and into a more modern building. The commute also will be easier, says Silberg, who lives in Baltimore County.

Silberg said the old building was antiquated. The new one has 20-foot ceilings and is more conducive to the auction side of the business, which Silberg added in 2009. A car dealership door has been added to the new building, where cars and other big-ticket items can be rolled in for display during auctions.

"It is a dream location," Silberg said.

Auctions will be held on Wednesdays. The Company Store, which is the part of the business most like the old C-Mart with its haphazard shelves of bargain clothes, will be open every day.

The goods come from insurance company salvage lots, which collect items from stores trying to get rid of damaged goods. Silberg also gets merchandise from sample sales and liquidations.

Rene Daniel, a principal with Baltimore retail brokerage Trout Daniel & Associates, said the new location will make the business more accessible to potential customers.

"Because they had good market penetration in Baltimore County, this is probably closer to their market," Daniel said. "This location is convenient to more people."

But Daniel said all the changes in the business during the past few years may have created a "confusing identity." He said consumers are no longer sure what the company sells or what it stands for.

"I don't think people know who C-Mart is anymore," Daniel said.

In its original incarnation, C-Mart was forced out of business in 2008 after attempts by new owners to modernize during a bad economy failed. The store was a largely paper-and-pencil enterprise with old-fashioned cash registers, while the new owners wanted to computerize and begin an e-commerce division.

Silberg reopened the business as an auction house in 2009 but no longer had rights to the C-Mart name, hence the name change. Last year, he brought back the retail side of the business.

"I think they'll have to redefine themselves to people," Daniel said.

Silberg said he doesn't worry about losing customers with the move. When he changed the name of the company, he said, people still came because of the prices.

"At the end of the day, it's been about deals, and if the deals are good, customers will come," Silberg said. "When we moved to the Harford County location years ago, there was absolutely nothing out there. We made that location relevant for people who came."

For those looking for a taste of the old C-Mart, the store will open with an auction of designer vintage handbags from names such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, DKNY, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and others. Proceeds will benefit Komen Maryland.

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