Published 10/5/17 in the Baltimore Business Journal
Coming soon to Southwest Baltimore’s Lion Brothers building: coffee, sandwiches and smoked seafood.
Two Baltimore eateries plan to expand into space in the historic former livery stable near the University of Maryland BioPark, which was later used as a clothing and embroidery factory for Lion Brothers Co.
Culinary Architecture, which sells artisan pantry items from a shop in Pigtown and also offers catering services, will open a small cafe on the first floor of the building by the end of the month. In January, Neopol Savory Smokery – a longtime tenant of Belvedere Square Market and a regular at farmers markets in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. – plans to relocate most of its food production to a 5,000-square-foot space, also on the first floor.
Both businesses will continue to operate out of their existing shops, as well.
They represent the first food concepts to come to the 38,000-square-foot Lion Brothers building, which so far has focused on coworking and office space. Tenants in the building, located at 875 Hollins St., include Enterprise Homes Inc., Baltimore Community Lending and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which is using its space for classrooms and a gallery.
The building was recently redeveloped by Cross Street Partners at a cost of $11 million.
Culinary Architecture Cafe – the second venture for Culinary Architecture co-owners Sylva Lin and Piper Booher in the span of a little more than a year – will serve coffee, including nitro and cold brews, kombucha from local and artisan suppliers, sandwiches and sweets out of a 500-square-foot space with an entrance on Poppleton Street.
The coffee shop will have a small indoor space with limited seating and also hopes to have an outdoor seating component, Lin said.
The cafe will be located within a new University of Maryland coworking space in the Lion Brothers building. The Graduate Research Innovation District, or “GRID,” is a joint venture of the University of Maryland Graduate School and the Center for Maryland Advanced Ventures at University of Maryland, Baltimore, and will support start-ups through early-stage funding and mentorship, according to university documents.
Lin and Booher live in Union Square, the next neighborhood over, and “were very determined to give Southwest Baltimore some love,” both with Culinary Architecture and the new cafe. Their Pigtown location marked its one-year anniversary in August.
“We wanted to show people there’s some economic viability on this side of the city, and so far we’ve been proven right,” Lin said.
Down the hall from the cafe, Neopol Savory Smokery’s new space will initially focus on production.
Dorian Brown, who co-owns Neopol with his mother, Barbara Lahnstein, said the business has outgrown the 900-square-foot production site it has used at Belvedere Square Market for the past 14 years. The eatery also has a booth at the market, where smoked specialties like grav lox, smoked salmon and smoked slab bacon, as well as pot pies, savory turnovers and prepared salads and spreads are sold.
Brown said the next year’s focus will be on the production kitchen “and making sure we can do things to scale, maintain quality and even improve where we can.”
After that, he plans to open a deli in part of the space that’s not being used for production. The restaurant will have limited seating and will mostly serve takeout food, such as sandwiches and salads.
Cross Street Partners is helping Neopol to find funding sources for the new production facility. John Renner, Cross Street’s vice president of development, said improvements to the space will cost about $650,000 and the equipment will cost another $100,000.
The expansion is part of Neopol’s plans to grow in the coming years. Brown said the new production space will more than quadruple the business’ production capacities, though he doesn’t expect to use all of the available space at once. Next summer, the eatery – which also operates a booth at Union Market in Washington, D.C. – will open a third shop at Georgetown’s Grace Street market.
While some food production will continue at the Belvedere Square site, most of it will move to the Lion Brothers building to facilitate transportation to markets in Baltimore and D.C., Brown said.
And though he doesn’t plan to make any big changes during the early stages of the expansion, Brown does have a longer-term goal of trying cold smoking – a method of preserving meat by pumping smoke into an unheated chamber. There hasn’t been any room to dabble in the technique at the Belvedere Square space.
“We are venturing into territory [where] we haven’t been before,” he said.
Accounting for its two new tenants, Renner said the Lion Brothers building has 2,700 square feet of remaining unleased space. The available site is on the second floor in the oldest part of the building.
It doesn’t have to be used for coworking space or a restaurant: with exposed brick walls and an open layout, “it would make a good yoga studio or something,” Renner said.