There’s hope for Eddie’s of Mount Vernon, after all.

The midtown staple had been the neighborhood’s only grocer for years, garnering a special reputation in the community as an intimate family-operated business before it closed abruptly last June. Now, new store operators, who have bought the rights to the Eddie’s of Mount Vernon name, plan to reopen the grocer with the help of $250,000 in state funding this summer.

Jack Danna, who heads the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association and is active in the neighborhood’s revitalization efforts, said in a community meeting Tuesday night that he hopes to announce the new operator of the store within the next two weeks. He said the community will have “a lot to celebrate.”

“It will become a model for the state in terms of how you eliminate … what we call food deserts,” he said, according to Baltimore Fishbowl.

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The $250,000 state grant comes from an initiative under the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development called Project C.O.R.E. The program, which stands for Creating Opportunities for Revitalization and Equity, promises to generate jobs and provide opportunities for small-business owners.

City Life Community Builders, South Baltimore Community Land Trust, Druid Heights Community Development Corporation and Southwest Baltimore Partnership are other groups that have received the grant in the past.

“For instance, this project was of interest, because the Department wants to ensure food access and eliminate food deserts,” according to a statement from Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

After residents learned the store was closing permanently, the community association mobilized to figure out how to replace it, Danna said, adding that the store was an amenity that made the neighborhood more walkable.

Danna and Charlie Duff, president of nonprofit developer Jubilee Baltimore, applied for the grant shortly after the announcement, Danna said. They presented a proposal detailing how the funding would help support the success of a new grocer, including a new facade and infrastructure.

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“A grocery store is the most challenging part of the retail sector,” Danna said, explaining why they needed the state’s support. “It has the kindest profit margins, but it also has some of the higher labor costs in the retail sector.”

Danna said they have also applied for smaller grants.

The store, Danna said, will look “fresh,” a step above what it used to be. But it will continue to be a community grocery store. Dennis Zorn, the former owner of Eddie’s, is helping the new owners find distributors and food vendors so they can offer more local products.

Danna declined to say who the new operators are, only adding that they have a lease agreement with the owner of the property, Dennis Richter. About “a half-dozen folks” reached out to Richter interested in the property, and Richter landed on this operator in early November, Danna said.

The new operators purchased Eddie’s name from Zorn, who applied for a trademark for “Eddie’s of Mt. Vernon” in November of last year. Danna said they want to “keep the namesake alive.”

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When the store closed in June, Zorn told The Baltimore Banner that business had been declining while expenses went up. Staffing had been an issue too, with the store having to close its deli early because they didn’t have enough employees.

“I wish it could be better. My wife and I have been supplementing payroll for the last few months. We don’t have anymore money, simple as that,” Zorn said at the time.

Zorn could not be reached for comment.

While Zorn bought the Mount Vernon location in 2000, the building on West Eager Street had acted as a grocery store since 1939, according to the Baltimore Brew. Jeffrey Grabelle, who has lived near Eager Street for decades, remembers getting his groceries in that building before it was Eddie’s of Mount Vernon.

Since the closing of Eddie’s, Grabelle mainly carpools with a friend to Safeway at 2401 N. Charles St. He started shopping at other stores in the neighborhood, including going to Mt. Vernon Super Mart for wine and beer. There’s also the Spot Pizzeria & Deli, a takeout restaurant that reminds him of a 7-11 convenience store, not too far, and Streets Market & Cafe, where he can walk to and take an Uber back to his house with groceries.

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“Things change and things adapt,” he said. “But I still remember them very well.”

By “them,” he means the family who operated the business and the community that surrounded it. Eddie’s was a very nice place to go, and he misses it. He would like it if another grocer opened there.

There used to be a sign that said “closed permanently” in front of Eddie’s, Grabelle said.

The sign is gone now. That makes him happy.

Clara Longo de Freitas is a neighborhood reporter covering East Baltimore communities. Before joining the Banner, she interned at The Baltimore Sun as an emerging news and community reporter. She also has design and illustration experience with several news organizations, including The Hill and NPR.

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