Chef Carlos Raba of Clavel in Remington will open his first Baltimore County venture, a taqueria at the historic Stoneleigh Community Building. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Longtime Stoneleigh and Rodgers Forge residents may remember the commercial building at York Road and Regester Avenue as the home of Purdum Pharmacy, a no-frills drug store where penny candy really only cost a penny. In recent years, it housed a dry-cleaning establishment on the south end.

Starting next year it will be the home of Nana, a new dining spot from Carlos Raba, co-owner and chef of Clavel Taqueria and Mezcaleria in Remington. It will be Raba’s first business in Baltimore County.

Raba said this venture does not change anything as far as his involvement with Clavel, where he will remain co-owner and chef. He said he saw an opportunity to start a new venture in Stoneleigh and wanted to pursue it. Clavel co-owner Lane Harlan is not part of this project.

“I’m doing a project by myself,” he said. “This has nothing to do with Clavel.”

The Towson Flyer was first to report that Raba plans to transform the south end of the historic Stoneleigh Community Building at 6901 York Road, where the pharmacy was, into a taqueria modeled after the ones he remembers from growing up in Mexico.

In a phone interview with Baltimore Fishbowl, Raba said he plans to be open every day except Monday, serving breakfast tacos in the morning and tacos, quesadillas, rotisserie chicken, breaded and roasted cauliflower, mashed potatoes and other Mexican-inspired fare for dinner. “It’s a Mexican concept, a Mexican taqueria diner.”

Raba said he lives with his family in Lake Walker, about five minutes south on York Road from Regester Avenue, and wanted to be part of Towson’s energy and growth. He takes his kids bowling at Stoneleigh Lanes and shops for groceries in the area. He said his business will be an alternative to the food chains up and down the York Road corridor and that money spent at Nana’s will stay in the community rather than go to out-of-town corporations such as Boston Market or Chipotle.

“I think it’s a great opportunity … to bring a little bit of Baltimore to Towson, and Towson to Baltimore,” he said.

Carlos Raba’s first Baltimore County venture, a taqueria called Nana, is not connected to Clavel, the Remington taqueria and mezcaleria that he co-owns with Lane Harlan. But the new restaurant will carry some familiar flavors and feelings for fans of Clavel, Raba said. Photo courtesy of Clavel.
Carlos Raba’s first Baltimore County venture, a taqueria called Nana, is not connected to Clavel, the Remington taqueria and mezcaleria that he co-owns with Lane Harlan. But the new restaurant will carry some familiar flavors and feelings for fans of Clavel, Raba said. Photo courtesy of Clavel.

Even though Nana isn’t connected to Clavel, Raba added, he hopes that people who like Clavel will like his new venture.

“You’re reading a different book, but it’s the same author,” he said. “You should have the same feeling. It’s Carlos’ food.”

Raba said he’s aiming to complete renovations in time to open by next spring, assuming an oven and other equipment arrive in time, and he’s naming the business after his great-grandmother. In Mexico, he said, it’s traditional to call great-grandmothers Nana, and that’s what he called his great grandmother. “I’m going with … a name that’s familiar,” he said.

Raba, 38, co-founded Clavel, a highly-praised restaurant at 225 West 23rd Street, with Harlan in 2015. A Black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he also heads Guardian Baltimore in Remington, non-profit gym that offers Brazilian jiu-jitsu and yoga classes and trains kids aged 6 to 17 for free.

Raba said Nana will serve food to go or to eat on-site. He said he hopes to offer outdoor seating to supplement about 20 seats indoors. He said Nana will result in the creation of 20 to 30 jobs.

This is the latest in a series of improvements to properties near the intersection of York Road and Regester Avenue, a key crossroads for Stoneleigh, Rodgers Forge and Anneslie to the south.

Starbucks, The Charmery and Pure Raw Juice have all opened stores at or near the intersection, and Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association just renovated its branch at 6810 York Road. Businesses that have closed in recent years include Harry Little’s, Steak & Egg and Uncle Wiggly’s deli and ice cream shop.

The Stoneleigh Community Building, also known as the Stoneleigh Shoppes Building, is a Baltimore County counterpart to the historic Roland Park Shopping Center on Roland Avenue in Baltimore City, designed for multiple retail tenants. The pharmacy space alone was once two tenants.

The two-story Tudor Revival-style structure dates from 1924 and has been designated a Baltimore County landmark. It’s distinguished by a stone veneer on the first level and stucco with half timbering on the second level, which draws attention to the projecting gable bays above. It has a limited amount of off-street parking. Residents warn that parking will be a concern. Raba said he plans to explore the possibility of getting a liquor license for the business but knows that may be difficult because a church is nearby.

Raba said he has signed a lease for his space, including part of the building’s basement and three garages. Besides adding an oven and other kitchen equipment to an area that wasn’t previously used as a dining establishment, he plans to open up the large front and side windows that have been closed for years, restore original stonework and make other improvements that take advantage of the building’s original features. He’s working with Maggie Ford of Price Modern and Ian Sokoloski of Design Evolution Architecture.

“I’m bringing the beauty of that building back, opening the windows, making sure we have the high ceilings, bringing it back to 1924 when it was built,” he said. “It’s going to help the neighborhood and make that corner beautiful.”

Because the building is a landmark, any new tenant must adhere to the county’s preservation controls. But “we can beautify it,” Raba said. “We can make sure it doesn’t look abandoned like it looks right now.”

Inside, “I don’t want to spill the whole beans, but I’m going with something that is minimalist and beautiful – wood, beautiful stonework inside, making sure that we open the ceiling and have great light and use the colors I like. Minimalist but beautiful and warm.”

Besides white, he’s introducing “colors from my childhood,” mostly in tilework and other details rather than on walls – ochre, pink, gold, maize.

Raba said the project has been in the works for a couple of years. He said the current owner of the building brought it to his attention.

“It’s been a long conversation,” he said. “I always liked the building and I was asking around who owns it. When the landlord bought the building, he knew that I had interest. It’s a great building. It’s a great community. So I was very interested.”

The pharmacist at Purdum Pharmacy had his license suspended by the state of Maryland after he pled guilty to one count of felony Medicaid fraud in 2007. The pharmacy closed in 2008. Raba said the dry cleaner has moved to a smaller space within the building, freeing up the former pharmacy space on the end.

Now approaching its 100th anniversary, the building changed hands in 2019 when 6901 York Road LLC bought the property for $1.4 million. The developer behind the purchase is Jeremy Landsman of Reba Holdings Inc., which owns commercial properties in the 6800 block of York Road as well as Hampden; Beltsville; Olney; Tacoma Park; Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D. C., its website states.

According to the Reba Holdings website, Landsman received a business degree from Towson University and has been in the real estate business since 2002. In Hampden, his holdings include buildings that house The Food Market; The Charmery; Paulie Gee’s, the Bluebird Cocktail Room and Wicked Sisters, among others. Reba is his German Shepherd.

The York Road project isn’t the first time Landsman has converted a pharmacy to a new use. The Charmery at 801 West 36th Street in Hampden also was created inside a former pharmacy.

Raba said he’s looking forward to opening.

“I’m all in on this project,” he said. “Opening a spot like that is a commitment to the building and to the community where you’re doing it …. It’s very challenging but it’s exciting.”

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.