By ED WATERS, Jr.
The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The potential in downtown Frederick and the challenge of turning an industrial area into a shopping mecca brought a young Texan to the city nearly 40 years ago.
Bert Anderson, who had served as a naval officer for eight years, initially opened Antique Imports in Ellicott City, near Fort Meade, where he had been stationed, to serve wholesale customers in the Mid-Atlantic region. His goal was to bring British antiques to the U.S., and satisfy a market for style and design that differed from American antiques.
When Anderson saw a building at 125 N. East St. — it was just East Street then — he saw an opportunity to move his business and join what was becoming a renovation of the downtown area. He bought the building in 1973. Although off the traditional “downtown” path of Market and Patrick streets, the area was within walking distance of the Square Corner, and there was traffic on East Street that would become busier as time went on.
The building, dating to 1870, had been a hardware warehouse, shoe factory, candy factory, cigar factory and more. Anderson transformed the building into a showroom for British antiques that soon drew customers from Ellicott City, as well as new ones in the area.
Across the street, there were many dwellings that had deteriorated over the years. Using his imagination and determination, Anderson bought the area, known as Shab Row, renovated and restored the buildings and leased them to small entrepreneurs.
What had been a run-down area suddenly had shoppers from around the area coming, quaint shops such as Rick’s Fish and Pet to Frederick School Supply. A former gas station went through several tenants and eventually became Frederick Coffee Co.
As time went on, Anderson looked at the Everedy Co. building across East Church Street and saw it as a perfect site for mixed use: retail, office and restaurant.
Part of the site, now the parking area in the rear, had once been used as the Lutheran Cemetery, but caskets had been relocated to Mount Olivet Cemetery decades before the building was erected.
The Lebherz family had produced the Everedy Bottle Capper in the building, popular for those making bathtub gin or beer, as well as root beer, at home during Prohibition. As the restriction on alcoholic beverages came to an end, the company produced high-quality cookware and was acquired by Standard International.
The factory closed in the 1970s, leaving a large, unused complex behind.
Anderson bought the Everedy complex in 1984 and began to renovate and transform the site. It was no easy task to tear down or disassemble the huge boilers and other equipment at the former factory. Although many think of it as one large building, there are a number of separate buildings in the complex. A mural on one wall of Everedy Square shows the bottle capper that started the business.
Two entrepreneurs from Washington, Jerry Kray and Tom Ketterman, were looking for a place to open an eclectic shop that would sell toys and gifts. They had searched Annapolis, Ellicott City and eventually downtown Frederick.
Intrigued by the building, the two climbed a fence meant to keep out the curious. Deciding it was what they were looking for, they approached Anderson and when it was ready, they opened Flights of Fancy.
Anderson considers Flights of Fancy the cornerstone of Everedy Square.
“It is like the prow of a ship,” Anderson said. “It sets the stage.” The shop’s recognizable red front and awning has become a destination for many shoppers.
“We get people who have moved away and when they are here to visit friends or relatives, they will stop in,” said Anne Goodwin.
She and her husband, Mike, bought the shop in 2006 from Kray and Ketterman.
“It is really great to see families who have shopped there over the years,” Goodwin said. “They find a toy or game they had as a child or say their parents bought them that same toy at Flights of Fancy when they were little.”
Flights of Fancy has expanded three times, growing eastward along Church Street.
“The owners have a passion for the products and people, and that really works,” Anderson said.
While the Goodwins see Flights of Fancy as “their child,” their acquisition was as much emotional as business-minded.
Talbots, the national retailer next door, took a totally different approach.
Anderson said Talbots, known for its extensive catalog business of women’s apparel, had looked at Everedy Square in the early 1990s.
They identified Frederick as a potential market. They were very analytical. The deal would be based on whether there was $150,000 annually in catalog business within the Frederick market. It came up short year after year.”
Finally, in 1996, catalog sales topped $150,000 in the market, and Talbots opened at 18 N. East St. It is one of 580 stores for the company.
Goodwin said despite the variety of shops at Everedy Square and Shab Row, from restaurant to hair salon to truffle shop to pottery and craft stores, they all work together.
“If one of us doesn’t have something, we recommend the shopper to look at a neighbor’s store,” Goodwin said. “We are all like a family here.”
Today, Shab Row and Everedy Square have six stores that have been there more than 25 years; five have a 20 year history; six are at more than 15 years; two stores are at more than 10 years; with the remainder at less than 10 years.
Anderson’s next project is at East and South streets. The former Monocacy Valley Canning Co. building will offer about 36,000 square feet of available space once it is renovated.
“It will be office space,” Anderson said, noting it is too far out of the general retail area for shops. A restaurant could potentially open in the building constructed around the turn of the 20th century and once part of the company that canned local vegetables for food clients.
Although some construction has taken place at the site, Anderson said it will be next spring before real work starts on the old building. It will have plenty of parking and is across from the Frederick County Public Schools headquarters and not far from Carroll Creek.
While large companies in industries such as biotech and manufacturing may hire numbers of employees, it is the retail sector that provides the key to a city’s success.
“Stores such as Flights of Fancy are an important part in the revitalization of downtown,” Anderson said. “I don’t say that at the expense of other businesses, but it captures the imagination.”
Retail adds the “sizzle” to a city, Anderson said, and along with Frederick’s historic and cultural assets, creates a draw for tourists, as well as local residents who want to dine out, shop or enjoy art or theater.
Those who haven’t worked in retail may not understand the long hours and challenges of that field of business.
“It is much like a dairy farm,” Anderson said. “The cows don’t know it is a holiday or Sunday, and farmers have to milk them twice a day. The same goes for retail; the owners have to be there for the customers and have to be passionate about what they are doing.”
And while there are sometimes events at Everedy Square and Shab Row, such as car shows, most of its events are coordinated with other downtown promotions such as First Saturdays and seasonal programs.
“Bert is one of the visionary leaders in downtown revitalization. He has transformed underperforming areas of downtown through historic renovation and adaptive reuse,” said Richard Griffin, director of the city’s economic development office. “His projects contribute energy, jobs, and tax base to the community and we expect nothing less from the Monocacy Valley Canning project.”
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)