Merriweather Post Pavilion: Best in the East

Merriweather Post Pavilion, you rock.

The venerable Columbia concert venue was named the fourth-best amphitheater in the United States — and the top one in the eastern half of the country — by Rolling Stone magazine. Here’s what Rolling Stone said about Merriweather:

Designed by architect Frank Gehry, known for shapes that seem structurally impossible, this outdoor theater is a huge wooden slab that seems to float over a hillside near Baltimore. Since opening in 1967, it’s hosted everyone from Phish to Led Zeppelin — and in 2009, it gained a new kind of fame when Animal Collective, who grew up in Baltimore, named their latest album Merriweather Post Pavilion. …  The venue is flexible enough to go big or small with ease. ‘It feels great whether there are 6,000 or 16,000 people there,’ says Fall Out Boy manager Bob McLynn.

Rolling Stone’s top three (in order) are Red Rocks near Denver, the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and the Gorge in Washington state.

Music aficionados may know this: Jackson Browne recorded his 1977 song, “Running on Empty” at Merriweather.

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Ellicott City shopping center gains more tenants

The Turf Valley Towne Square in Ellicott City has inked leases with more tenants.

Developer Greenberg Gibbons said last week that Pet Valu, Beauty Sense Nails and Spa, Sports Clips and Organic Cleaners recently opened in the 109,000-square-foot shopping center in western Howard County near Interstate 70. (took out “western ridge”)

Towne Square anchor Harris Teeter opened earlier this year in a 49,002-square-foot space. Later this summer, five restaurants are slated to open there along with a wine store, hair salon, a Subway sandwich shop, a Smyth Jewelers store and Tiger World Class Tae Kwon Do.

The Towne Square is the centerpiece of a developing planned community that will include more than 1,800 residential units, a 26-hole championship golf course and a 175-room resort hotel and spa when fully built out.

Restaurant rendezvous

Baltimore county Restaurant WeekJust when you thought you’d prevailed through the diet-sabotaging holiday season (Pumpkin pie! Christmas cookies! Champagne!) and actually made progress on that health-related New Year’s resolution, there’s another temptress in town.

That’s right, it’s Restaurant Week — the irresistible combination of great food and great deals. But Restaurant “Week” is really a misnomer because diners don’t have just a mere seven days to partake. With prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at participating restaurants, it’s the ultimate opportunity to sample new options on the dining scene or finally make a reservation somewhere pricier than your budget usually allows.

First up in the 2013 Winter Restaurant Week season is Baltimore County, where the promotion begins Friday and runs through Jan. 27 with about 45 restaurants offering one, two or three courses for between $10.13 and $35.13. Among this year’s participants are McFaul’s Ironhorse Tavern, The Peppermill Restaurant & Lounge, Mari Luna Latin Grille, Friendly Farm Restaurant and Artful Gourmet Bistro.

If none of Baltimore County’s offerings pique your interest, head on down to Howard County, where about 20 restaurants are participating in their own promotion from Jan. 14 through Jan. 28.

Howard County Tourism & Promotion chose a global theme for the event, asking restaurateurs to incorporate international flavors into their special menus, which may include one to four courses, priced from $10.13 to $40.13.

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Terps’ new look a TD to Ulman

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman talked about a wide range of topics in his Newsmakers interview. The University of Maryland alum also gave his thoughts on the football team’s new Under Armour uniforms.

Judging by the video clip below, I’d say he’s a fan.

Getaways: Fourth of July fireworks

This may be one of my favorite posts so far to write. Mostly because I still get giddy over fireworks. The cacophony of fireworks and constant Sousa, popcorn and fried food smells… It’s the best.

We won’t provide an entirely comprehensive list of where you can find fireworks around the state, but here are a few spots to cover the Greater Baltimore area in case you’re in need of a fireworks fix:

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor will make the entire afternoon and evening a big Fourth of July party, starting at noon Monday. Children’s entertainment will start the fun events, including the ever-popular Milkshake Duo (hear your kids screaming yet?) The Pennsylvania Air National Guard Band plays at 4 p.m., followed by the Electric Brigade at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks start at 9:30 p.m.

Annapolis will start its Fourth of July with a parade at 6:30 p.m. on Amos Garrett Blvd. The parade ends in front of the Market House. Get your seats early.

Columbia will fire up the weekend with fireworks at Columbia Lakefront. Entertainment includes live bands on two stages and children’s entertainment.

Baker Park in Frederick is the place to be if you’re around there for the weekend. The 44-acre park is a natural locale for a day that lends itself for family fun. Holiday activities in Frederick include live music, a volleyball tournament, chili cook-off and a “most-patriotic” pageant.

And for you fellow Baltimore County residents, Oregon Ridge Park will have its usual Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Star Spangled Spectacular on Saturday and Sunday this year, starting at 8 p.m. I already hear Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture playing.

Catching up with Nightmare Graphics

Census forms have been mailed out and as of Thursday, the U.S. Census is reporting that 52 percent of Americans have not only spent the 10 minutes it takes to fill out the form, they’ve also mailed it back. (For Maryland’s county-by-county returns, go here).

That means that come May, more than 1 million Census workers going door-to-door to collect forms from slowpokes nationwide could have a lot of work to do. And they’ll be doing it wearing locally-printed Census shirts made by Columbia screen printing company, Nightmare Graphics.

It took a year and the assistance of a consulting firm to get qualified to sell products to the federal government. No matter, check out my story on how it worked out for Nightmare Graphics with a $2.1 million contract.

And, while Nightmare Graphics wants to do more government work, owner Sam Andelman hopes people don’t assume that hitting the big time has gone to his head. It’s not every month, after all, that a company fills a 1 million piece order.

Aside from working with the smaller customers — Andelman says the company will do as few as 12 pieces — Nightmare Graphics plays host to a different kind of little guy, like Boy Scout troops. Andelman, a former art department director at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, said it allows him to return to his teaching roots.

The company is also very much tied to the community. For the Maryland State High School Championships, Nightmare Graphics prints T-shirts listing the schools and the names of all high school players.

Extra shirts and pants get donated to the Melvin Mora Foundation, which funds educational and medical needs in the former Orioles third baseman’s native Venezuela, or Grassroots, a Columbia-based crisis intervention organization.

Animal Collective and the American Dream

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As resident music nerd/real estate reporter here at The Daily Record, I sometimes feel the need to highlight examples of real estate and development-related pop music in Maryland. Last year, we alerted readers to a new electronic dance music mash-up act called Smart Growth, which is led by the drummer in a Baltimore band that’s gotten big praise for a song called “Luxury Condos for the Poor.”

Now, even though the record is a few months old, I’m urging readers to check out Merriweather Post Pavilion, the new album by Animal Collective, a band that originated in Baltimore County (Catonsville, I believe) but whose members are now spread out between America and Europe.

In addition to naming their record after the Howard County venue where they grew up seeing rock concerts, the band has recorded a new song, “My Girls,” (see the awesome video above) which is my early pick for Best Single of 2009 and is an eloquent expression of the American Dream, as construed through real estate. Here are the lyrics:

Is it much that I feel I need?
A solid soul and the blood I bleed?
With a little girl, and by my spouse
I only want a proper house.

I don’t care for fancy things,
Or to take part in a precious race.
And children cry for the one who has
A real big heart and a father’s grace.

I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things like a social status.
I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls.

Hmmm. With the housing market in what Reuters is calling “the worst downturn since the Great Depression” and the Case-Shiller index reporting nearly 20 percent drops in home prices over the last year (they’re down 19.2 percent in metro Washington, which includes the real Merriweather Post Pavillion), the guys of Animal Collective may just get what they need, at a bargain.

It can’t hurt that their upcoming U.S. tour has been almost completely sold out for two months now. That is, it can’t hurt them. Anybody have an extra ticket to the DC show?

ROBBIE WHELAN, Business Writer

Going “Midcentury modern”

How would you like to spend your weekdays scouting for vintage furniture? Rob Degenhard and Nini Sarmiento, owners of the Home Anthology store, do.

The couple’s Catonsville furniture store is open only on weekends, allowing them to spend the week hunting for vintage pieces – the habit that got them into the business. Their store is featured in today’s issue of The Daily Record supplement Distinctive Properties.

Now, Rob and Nini are two businesspeople filling a growing demand for “midcentury modern” furniture and accessories – vintage pieces made between 1945 and 1970. The functional, sleek pieces are in demand now as people aim to simplify their lives, and the prices are beginning to reflect that, with high-end pieces demanding tens of thousands of dollars.

Midcentury modern’s “appeal isn’t limited to the young and hip,” Mary Medland reports. Home Anthology has clients “ranging from newlyweds to those who are in their 70s.”

Browse through the inventory of Home Anthology, as seen through the eyes of Photographer Rich Dennison. (View larger here).

JACKIE SAUTER, Web Editor

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To bundle, or not to bundle

While the practice of “bundling” services is commonplace in many industries, such as food service (think McDonald’s Happy Meal) or the new car industry, where various options are thrown together for one price instead of sold separately, I never thought that the plastic surgery business was an industry where I would find services bundled.

I was wrong.

A news release issued by Dr. Eric Chang, owner of Columbia Aesthetic Plastic Surgery LLC, in Columbia, though touts a bundling of surgical services “popularly known” as a “Mommy Makeover.” The service is aimed at mothers looking to restore to “restore a woman’s pre-pregnancy body.”

“Mommy Makeovers are tailored to the individual needs of each patient, but usually combine tummy tuck with a breast enhancement surgery like breast lift, breast enlargement, or breast reduction to recontour women’s bodies that have begun to stretch and sag after pregnancy,” Chang said in the release.

According to Chang, the procedures are making up an increasing share of his practice.

Do you think this is a valid response to an underserved market?

Should he bundle a selection of services for male clients as well? Why not have men tag along and go for something like a “pre-wedding makeover?”

Or, why not target both and make a “parent makeover” bundle?

BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

Md. pizza supplier donates to week-long food drive

Maybe I’ve just been hungry at work, but I feel that pizza’s been in the news a lot lately.

Yesterday, I ran an Uncover story about the rising cost of wheat used to make pizza crusts, which is leading some pizza makers to offer alternative menu choices and consider raising prices. The cost of cheese has also grown.

But that didn’t stop Joe Corbi’s from donating 10,000 pizza kits this week to the Harvest for the Hungry spring food drive. The drive runs through Saturday.

From the press release:

While our country continues to enjoy high economic prosperity, there are still 31 million Americans who are at risk of hunger or malnutrition. To date, Harvest for the Hungry campaigns have collected food and funds worth more than $30,000,000.

“We are thrilled about our ongoing partnership with Joe Corbi’s,” comments Deborah Flateman, CEO of the Maryland Food Bank. “They are one of the organizations that continue to give to the Maryland Food Bank. In these times of financial uncertainty, we must remember that we are all fragile.”

Joe Corbi’s was founded in Columbia, Md., 25 years ago, and has become a popular source of fundraising for PTAs, little league teams and clubs. According to the company Web site, Joe Corbi got his start at the Baltimore Pizza Crust Company, which produced and distributed pizza crusts throughout Maryland.

To participate in this week’s Harvest food drive, leave a bag of non-perishable food by your mailbox and local Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or Postal Service carriers will pick it up.

JACKIE SAUTER, Web Editor