Small businesses have historically been the heart and soul of communities. In a neighborhood like Remington, in the early 1900s, there used to be a store on nearly every corner, providing goods and services for people living in the surrounding areas. But as jobs and people left Baltimore City, many of those small businesses shuttered, taking their foot traffic and positive community presence with them. When that happens, and zoning codes change, it can take a complicated process to help bring those storefronts back to life. In small neighborhoods like Remington, we’ve been a willing partner with the community to help return more small businesses to their streets. At Seawall, a large part of our mission is to provide launchpads for innovators of every kind – whether for teachers who have moved to a new city to take on one of the world’s most important jobs, nonprofits doing the hard work of training and mentoring young people, or small business owners taking massive risks as they dream of opening their own space. While it might be more profitable and less risky to work with nationally-recognized tenants, we’ve always believed that it is our responsibility to use our social and financial capital to help great small businesses get off the ground. We love coming alongside innovators and dreamers to get some of the least exciting (but equally important) parts of opening a business done – like finding a choice location at an affordable price and dealing with permitting and construction – so they can focus on turning their vision into a reality. Many community conversations and gutsy pitches from passionate entrepreneurs later, we’re honored to have helped more than 20 small business owners get up and running all across Baltimore – and we’re just getting started. We’d like to introduce you to a few on this page, but we encourage you to go visit them in person. And make sure you go back often!
The idea of coming to a neighborhood interested in collaboration and new growth sounded like exactly what we needed.
Movement Lab is all about embodiment – about helping people feel at home in their bodies but also like they have a home in a community...and we are one of the most affordable studios in Baltimore, especially for what we offer. Our mission has always been to not replace what is here [in Remington] but work with it.
I immediately connected with the neighborhood of Remington. It was natural. And, a barbershop is for everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from.
We are helping people to reach overall health and wellness, but more than that, we are also a place where they can begin to find their place within a community. It is awesome to see the collaboration that happens between people who come to the gym and then what impact it has on the community and city around us.
Part of my mission has always been to put out the best food possible, but in a way that’s inclusive of anyone, a way that’s surprising and memorable for people...it’s incredible to see how supportive and appreciative people in this neighborhood are of us.
We were super excited about this location and everyone in the neighborhood has been really welcoming. We want this to be a multipurpose space - a hub - for everyone in the area.
B. Willow, a Remington shop committed to helping Baltimoreans bring the outdoors inside, was founded by Liz Vayda in 2014 and opened their Remington storefront in 2016. The store, located on the corner of 27th St. and Cresmont, is an explosion of green, illuminated by the light pouring in through their windows - a welcome sight on any grey Baltimore day. Liz and her amazing B. Willow team have grown the business rapidly in the past two years and opened a second location in early 2019.
What was it about plants that made you want to start an entire shop focused on bringing more of them into people’s lives?
My background is in psychology and environmental science, so I’ve always really understood the positive impacts on health that come from interacting with the natural world. When we started doing pop-ups and workshops around Baltimore in 2013, I realized how innate the connection was for people and how much even a house plant could help someone regain that feeling of being involved with nature. With the storefront, I wanted to create a space where people could learn about plants, buy them, and ultimately, feel more connected to the natural world around them.
What do you hope people take away from being in your shop, whether they buy a plant or just enjoy the environment you’ve created in here?
As a kid, I remember spending hours outside, playing in the dirt and climbing on rocks, and it’s crazy to think that in the current age of the internet and phones, many people don’t get outside very often. And more and more, many people grow up somewhere where they don’t have access to any green space, and that’s extremely damaging to someone’s mental and physical health. I really believe that whether people realize it or not, they want to be connected to the natural world. I think that’s why we’ve seen plants become so trendy in a way; people are really craving that connection to something natural, even if they can’t put words to it.
How have you felt about starting your business in Remington and being a part of this community?
I feel a lot of responsibility, because when we opened our doors in 2016, we were one of very few retail businesses that had opened up in Remington in the last 40 years. To me, that carries a lot of weight to make sure that we are an active part of the neighborhood and have programming that is useful to people in the community. And with the offerings in the store, it’s all about accessibility, having price points that make everyone feel comfortable.
What’s your vision for B. Willow as you continue to grow and expand, both in Remington and in other Baltimore neighborhoods?
Now that we’ve really established ourselves, we’re very focused on the educational piece and bringing people more opportunities to understand why they want that link to the natural world and how they can increase their experience of the outdoors. That’s our focus moving forward.