Patagonia Baltimore opens in Fells Point; outlet is company’s biggest store yet

Published on: October 27, 2022 11:57 AM EDT|Updated on: October 27, 2022 11:46 PM EDT

Patagonia has officially soft opened to the general public. The grand opening is set for Nov. 5th & 6th.

In the center of its brand new Baltimore store, Patagonia Inc. has created a community space — a burgundy red sofa and golden chair behind a bookshelf full of environment-related novels, and a desk large enough for a few people to sit and work.

Amid folded sweaters and racks with puffy jackets and overalls, are reminders about early voting, an array of indoor plants and information on Blue Water Baltimore, an environmental non-profit that monitors water quality, plant trees and native species and organizes clean-ups and advocates for environmental policies.

The outdoor clothing and gear store at 700 South Caroline St. in Fells Point, on the border of Harbor East, is the California-based company’s biggest store yet, and its sixth outlet in the country. The first location in Maryland, the 15,000-square-foot store will include current and past season products, provide grants for non-profits that do environmental work and serve the community. Patagonia Baltimore has already quietly opened, operating from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. since last week, but will have an official grand opening event Nov. 5 and 6.

Cam Dampier, retail district manager, said in a statement that the company is “excited” to open in Baltimore.

“We’re hoping to capture untapped demand for the Baltimore market while simultaneously using business to protect nature,” he said. “We are confident in our ability to serve the unique needs of our Baltimore community and address the differences here versus other markets where we have a more substantial presence on the East Coast, for example Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston.”

Patagonia is known for creating a unique identity for each of its stores, adapting itself to the needs of the community, said assistant store manager Ty Baxter. The Baltimore store doesn’t yet have a fully thought- out identity yet, Baxter said, but he sees it focusing on water quality and conservation efforts.

“My big priority for Baltimore is the water quality,” Baxter said. “So having partners like Blue Water [Baltimore] is amazing for my own personal goals.”

The store will also push different initiatives throughout the year, especially that are related to social issues. The company will also pay their employees to do work with local organizations, like a cleanup with Blue Water Baltimore on Middle Branch Park in August.

“We’re excited to be a partner with Patagonia,” said Tony Bridges, the executive director for Blue Water Baltimore. “We know that will also make sure that people understand the work that we’re doing … that gives us a platform to really amplify the message.”

Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, announced he was giving the entire company away in September, transferring ownership to a designated trust and a non-profit organization. The trust, dubbed Patagonia Purpose Trust and made up by members of the Chouinard family and advisers, owns 2% of the company and the voting stock; its purpose is to ensure that the company is committed to its mission and give away its profits. Holdfast Collective, a newly established nonprofit, will hold 98% of the company shares and all its non-voting stock and use Patagonia’s profits and funds to combat climate change, according to The New York Times.

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” Mr. Chouinard said in an interview with The New York Times. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”

Rene Daniel, a principal for Trout Daniel & Associates, a commercial real estate agency, said Baltimore has a “good market” that is underserved, with a lot of buyers and plenty of demand. There isn’t anything like Patagonia in the market at the moment, he said. Patagonia’s message of fighting climate change may also have appeal to consumers, Daniel said.

“Social consciousness is something that’s not only desirable but emulatable and a very, very positive sales decision for companies,” Daniel said. “It gives you a reason.”

He has seen other companies give away a percentage of a year’s profit for a cause, but nothing on the scale of what Patagonia has done. But Daniel said he wouldn’t be surprised to see other companies take similar actions.

More than a century before the property became home to the Patagonia store, the building on Caroline Street belonged to E.J. Codd Company as a manufacturer for boilers, propellers and engines during the height of Baltimore’s shipbuilding industry in the 1850s. The company sold the building in 2003, after Tropical Storm Isabel damaged the machinery.

Harbor East Management Group, a corporation that has been developing the Harbor East area since 1996, currently manages the E. J. Codd building. Patagonia joins a growing list of retailers in and around Harbor East, which the management group is developing into a mixed-use walkable neighborhood where people can work, shop and reside, said the company’s president Tim O’Donald. He said he hopes to attract more global brands as well as local retailers

“It really creates a vibrancy in the city,” he said.

It made sense to O’Donald that Patagonia was interested in the E. J. Codd building, he said.

“They want their brand and they want their products to be very durable … they want them to be long-lasting,” he said. “When you look at that store, it’s just a perfect fit for that building.”

The artwork throughout the store, including the large white lettering and company symbol representing their guarantee that Patagonia is “built to endure,” were created by local Baltimore artists that Patagonia commissioned.

“But it just looks like it was there from 100 years ago,” O’Donald said.

Emilee Beeson, an illustrator who has lived in the city for the past decade, designed the logo. She sketched a couple of different alternatives, including one with three daisies and a “Baltimore bench,” a raven flying with a single flower and even a rat. But ultimately, Beeson said, they selected the blue crab, particularly for its connection to the watershed conservation effort.

She also designed a rug that lies in front of a poster about Blue Water Baltimore. The rug depicts a map, almost an infographic, of the Harbor, showing the waterways into the city.

“It feels really great to be … not just participating in this Patagonia project, because it’s Patagonia, but feeling like I’m part of this larger effort of local artists and muralists and designers coming together to create a space that going to be part of the community that we live in,” she said. “I think that’s really special.”