Another small business bites dust in South Baltimore

While much of the talk about restarting the tight job market centers on small businesses, there is a crisis in the works in Federal Hill where such entrepreneurships are concerned. Many small businesses have closed shop over the past six months, leaving a budding retail hole on the south Baltimore peninsula. Last week, Amy Mutch announced she was shuttering her popular upscale women’s clothing boutique, Amy’s, at 1133 S. Charles St. It is the third small clothing shop to close in six months in SoBo, following Babe, which recently relocated to Fells Point, and Whimsy Boutique, which went out of business in September. Their retail spaces remain vacant. Mutch was living her dream by opening the boutique five years ago. She hired Owings Mills sculptor David Bacharach to help design lighting and displays for the small shop, located on a tree-lined block with other businesses, restaurants and bars. “We were catering to the urban woman who had an edginess to her style,” she said this week as a 30-50 percent off sale whittled away her inventory. “We offered cutting-edge fashion.” When the deadline approached to make orders for spring 2012 togs, Mutch said she decided to fold. One problem Mutch pointed out is the high cost of parking meters in SoBo — $2 per hour. That’s a whopper when compared to the meters at Belvedere Square in north Baltimore, where 20 cents will get you in a parking space for an hour without threat of a city meter maid wielding a ticket book. Of course, there are not two sports stadiums located within walking distance of that location. Mutch reminisced about her business: “The first two years, business was growing 25 percent — I made a tiny profit the first two years. Then it literally tanked in 2008. I’m proud I kept the doors open, but I never made money.” The recent Baltimore Grand Prix race also hampered business, she said, choking off foot traffic to SoBo over the Labor Day weekend. She plans to close the doors for good after Thanksgiving — or whenever her inventory runs out — and return to her roots as a nurse practitioner. Mutch said she plans to use her experience to help others in the community. She was just elected president of the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association and is on the board of the Federal Hill Business Association. “People need to look at small businesses and what that means to a community,” she said. “It is such a hard business,” she added, of the life of a sole proprietor. “As a nurse practitioner, I used to say that cardiologists were the real heroes. Now, I say it’s the small business owners.”

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