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Is B'More Retail's Heyday Over?

Baltimore Retail

KLNB Retail’s Tom Maddux has been on the job for 30 years this month, presiding over 25 years of retail expansion and the past five years of uncertainty. (Pearl is the traditional 30th anniversary gift, by the way, and shopping for pearls will boost the local retail market.)


Tom (right, with KLNB LLC managing principal Andy Georgelakos) is born and bred Baltimore. He graduated from St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville in ’78 and shipped off to Granville, Ohio’s postcard of a college, Denison University. Next came traveling and odd jobs, and then he entered the workforce after the early ’80s recession, when the economy, especially retail, was expanding. He joined CBRE predecessor Coldwell Banker Commercial in May 1984, when the office was just a year old. (You mean there was a time before CBRE?)


On the cusp of another recession recovery, Tom switched to KLNB Retail in 1991, riding the rise of nationally expanding tenants and new retail formats like grocery-anchored and power centers to prominence. He handled lease-up at White Marsh’s Nottingham Square (above) and Ellicott City’s Long Gate Shopping Center, repped several tenants in Columbia’s Snowden Square, and helped sell a few big centers like Arundel Plaza, Golden Ring Plaza, and Stafford Marketplace. All along, he says, retail categories were hot—until they were not. Gone, for example, is one of his first nationally known clients, Blockbuster (they're never getting their VHS copy of Highlander back from us), and facing challenges now are book, electronics, and office supply stores. Meanwhile, discount and high-end soft goods and apparel retailers are flying high. Tom's repping TJX concepts and Pier 1 in their search for space and says TJX has done well, taking advantage of real estate opportunities left behind by retailers that went out of business.


Tom (above at a Bisnow event with Greenberg Gibbons CEO Brian Gibbons and MacKenzie Management’s Andrew Ingalls) is still catching his breath from a whirlwind 72 hours at ICSC. He says the old-fashioned face-to-face meetings in Vegas help move deals along, even as the majority of attendees cart iPads around the show floor. He’s waiting for the economic expansion that took off when he graduated to emerge for his 20-something kids now. He’d also like to see it in his book of business and is working with developers on five land parcels to decide just what kind of retail to put there. It’s not as easy as in days past, Tom says, when one could build a power center in the suburbs without risk. Now, the market is saturated and it’s time to reinvent it once again, this time by building mixed-use and TOD and transitioning obsolete retail to other uses.