Fells Point gala builds on push to draw more visitors to the neighborhood

Fells Point gala builds on push to draw more visitors to the neighborhood

– By Amanda Yeager, Baltimore Business Journal, August 20, 2018

A new gala highlighting Fells Point’s restaurants, boutiques and other small businesses will debut this week as part of a continued push to boost foot traffic in the waterfront neighborhood.

The End of Summer Soiree, planned for Thursday evening at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel, will raise money for Fells Point Main Street, a nonprofit focused on promoting the neighborhood’s commercial district through revitalization, historic preservation and economic development initiatives. But organizers hope it will also spark future visits by showcasing what the community has to offer.

“We really want people to come back and see that Fells Point is a place where you can do it all and see it all,” said Misty Keens, the executive director of Fells Point Main Street.

The historic community, with its cobblestoned streets and plethora of small businesses and restaurants, has faced a number of challenges in recent years. Construction at the Pendry and a makeover of the public square at Broadway and Thames slowed business for some. News of robberies and other crimes also took their toll.

Last year, Fells Point merchants banded together and agreed to increase their annual tax bills to pay for extra maintenance, security and marketing for the neighborhood. They hired the Waterfront Partnership to oversee the new services, which cost about $560,000 a year and include street cleaning, patrols by uniformed security officers, maintenance of Broadway Square and Thames Street Park and social media and digital promotion for the neighborhood.

Keens said the services have had a noticeable effect since they started in January.

“The difference is a complete 180 — it’s so pristine,” she said. “Our businesses are happier, there’s more eyes on the street, there’s more people out and about.”

Still, she said, “we can always use more traffic.”

Keens said she expects about 350 people to attend the Summer Soiree, which will be held in the Pendry’s ballroom from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. General admission tickets are $75, and include unlimited food and drinks.

Restaurants offering tasting dishes include Ale Mary’s, Rec Pier Chop House, Thames Street Oyster House, Points South Latin Kitchen, Duck Duck Goose and Twist. Bartenders from Woody’s Cantina, Kooper’s Tavern and Red Star Bar and Grill will be mixing specialty cocktails featuring Sagamore Spirit rye whiskey, Sloop Betty vodka and Old Line Spirits rum. Retailers including Polina’s Prive, Party Dress, Poppy and Stella, Freesia, Brightside Boutique, Katwalk Boutique and Angel Park Boutique will be outfitting models with clothing and accessories available in their shops.

Sponsors for the gala are the Sagamore Pendry, Beatty Development, Brown Advisory, Red Star, the Waterfront Hotel and The Choptank, a new seafood restaurant from the Atlas Restaurant Group that will take over the Broadway Market’s south shed.

Keens said the event is part of a strategic vision on the part of the Fells Point Main Street Board of Directors to feature neighborhood businesses. While the organization’s other fundraiser, the Fells Point Family Fun Fest, brings in outside vendors, the gala is homegrown.

“We want to celebrate what’s here,” she said.