Kohli Flick and her crew of three employees were putting on the finishing touches for the official grand opening of her home goods, accessories and gift store, Becket Hitch, in Green Spring Station, over this weekend.
The new storefront arrived weeks ago. The custom furniture — a yellow sofa and navy armchair, both from High Point, N.C. — was scheduled to arrive any day. Flick said the bold colors would show well against the white and bright aesthetic of the store.
"It's always been a dream to have my own store," said the 32-year-old, who worked for six years as the head of visual merchandising for Trohv, the home goods store in Hampden. "We've had a really positive reception. We're thrilled that the shop is in Green Spring. It's a unique shopping experience in Baltimore with a unique collection of stores and restaurants. It's a well-established shopping center. It provided space and atmosphere that I couldn't find anywhere else in Baltimore."
Other retailers have found a similar allure at the Baltimore County shopping destination, which is undergoing something of a transformation. In the past six months, Green Spring Station welcomed Bare SkinLabs, an "evolved aesthetics" service boutique, and saw the relocation of two of its longtime shops to new sites in the center.
Children's clothing boutique Wee Chic is nearly tripling in size, expanding into a 3,000-square-foot space previously occupied by The Pleasure of Your Company, which has moved into the Gatehouse at Green Spring Station, taking over a spot that was previously home to Fresh Boutique.
And there are more changes coming. Green Spring Station is set to undergo a nearly $2 million renovation, which will address interior and exterior needs, according to Tom Peddy, principal of Foxleigh Enterprises, the developer of the shopping center.
Peddy said Green Spring Station has evolved into a 60,000-square-foot shopping center with food, retail and medical options from its beginnings as a one-story log cabin that offered shelter for travelers on a toll road and as home to the Green Spring Inn, a white-tablecloth restaurant centered around dinner and dancing.
"Everyone gets a fresh look — new signage. And we're going to renovate the whole courtyard area," said Peddy, who noted that the project is still being designed.
Rene F. Daniel, a principal with commercial real estate brokerage Trout Daniel & Associates, said community centers such as Green Spring Station have been doing "relatively OK" in revitalization and attracting costumers.
"They are less risky because they are smaller," he said. "The size in generally is in their favor in terms of things getting done.
"They have strong local recognition and strong local names. That results in a strong draw."
The planned renovation and changes to the center "will help them in terms of creating better site recognition," Daniel said. "It will infer to the consumer a newer, more pleasant place to shop."
Shop owners are enthused about the changes, which are expected to be completed by next summer.
"We're really excited," said Bridget Stickline, owner of Wee Chic. "The clientele of the center helps me go forward. I think we are doing something unlike anyone else in town. It is exciting for us. It is exciting for Green Spring Station."
Stickline opened Wee Chic in 2009 after working as a corporate buyer for the national retailer Everything But Water.
"Having been here for five years, it's such a wonderful community of retailers," she said. "The big thing for me is that Green Spring Station is an incubator for retail."
Sima Blue has owned Trillium, a women's boutique, for 22 years.
"The stores here have always been unique," Blue said. "It is an easy place. It is just beautiful here. It has a country-type of atmosphere."
Blue notes that the arrival of the nearby Johns Hopkins satellite medical complex in the mid-1990s gave the shopping center a boost.
"When Johns Hopkins came in, it changed the entire dynamic," she said. "Now we have international customers. They come in and shop."
Renee Wilson has owned the jewelry boutique Bijoux for nine years.
The center is "the last bastion of independently owned stores in this area," she said. "Every store there — other than Yves Delorme — [is] independently owned. I love the clientele. I love my building."
Jodi Lare, a Stevenson resident, said she spends a lot of time in Green Spring Station — especially at Bijoux.
"I love the shops there; I love the variety," she said. "I love being able to walk around. It's very pretty there. There's something for everyone."
Lare has been a loyal customer of Bijoux since it opened nine years ago.
"The staff is wonderful," she said. "They are so sweet and kind to me. They set things aside for me. They have the most unique, one-of-a-kind pieces."
Peddy points to the longevity of businesses in Green Spring Station. A number of stores — Covenant Cleaners, Craft Concepts, Trillium— have been open since 1979. Other stores have been operating since the late 1980s and early '90s.
"The good news is that they have been here and been successful. But it is also time for a change — new ideas and hopefully get some younger shoppers here," Peddy said.
"It is necessary that we attract a younger clientele," Wilson said. "We needed a really great gift shop. I think Becket Hitch is wonderful. The changes are great, and they have been doing a wonderful job keeping all the shops filled."
Green Spring Station has been on Flick's radar for years.
Flick, who attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, remembers coming to the shopping center while in college to grab lunch at Stone Mill Bakery Cafe. She continued to frequent the center, including recently when she learned about available retail space while taking her son to a doctor's appointment.
"I saw that there was a space available; I gave them a call," said Flick, who previously had operated Becket Hitch as a pop-up store.
Stickline says Flick will find a good home in Green Spring Station.
"When I had this concept idea five years ago, [Peddy] took a chance on me," said Stickline, who plans to expand to tween and teen offerings as well as to host more activities in her new digs, slated to open in July.
"Now I feel he is doing something similar with Becket Hitch. I don't know where [else] that is happening in Baltimore."