Mount Vernon home decorating store Nouveau to close this summer

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Photo via Nouveau Home and Interior Design/Facebook

After four years at 10 W. Eager St. in Mount Vernon, and more than three decades combined in Baltimore City, the owners of Nouveau Home and Interior Design are closing up shop on their retail operation.

Steve Appel and Lee Whitehead, childhood friends who co-own the store and interior design business together, announced plans to liquidate their stock of contemporary home furnishings, gifts and more Wednesday evening. They’re holding a sale on all items through Aug. 31. Furniture, lighting and art will be marked down 40 percent, and accessories discounted 25 percent.

Nouveau is both a retail shop and a design studio in-house, offering interior decoration consulting for residential and commercial clients.

Appel, Nouveau’s lead designer, said it’s simply become too difficult to compete with web retailers.

“It’s been an incredible experience, it’s been heartwarming to have so much support from the neighborhood,” he said. “But we’re in an atmosphere and a time when brick-and-mortar stores don’t have any relevance.”

He noted he and Whitehead have “been really working on how to reinvent ourselves,” trying out in-store events, for example, to “get customers to interact with the store.” But despite managing a decent turnout and leaning on their customer base, in the end, “it’s really about economics and people’s buying patterns, and how online shopping has taken over.”

Asked if crime—a reason retailers and eateries, and their customers, have increasingly pointed to following closures—was partly to blame, Appel said that’s not a factor.

“I live in the city, I love the city,” he said. “The people who live in the city who know our business still shop with us.”

Appel and Whitehead, the store’s chief purchaser, founded Nouveau in historic Savage Mill in 1986, and moved to Baltimore one year later, opening Nouveau Contemporary Goods at 519 N. Charles St. in Mount Vernon.

In 2004 they moved to Belvedere Square, opening a retail storefront and, several years later, an interior design service across from the market. They relocated once again in 2015, coming back to Mount Vernon and renaming their store in the process.

Over three decades, the company has achieved a loyal following, along with numerous local superlatives, including “Best of Baltimore” nods from Baltimore magazine and The Sun.

Appel said they’ve benefited from having good neighbors in businesses like Eddie’s of Mount Vernon, Flowers by Chris and City Cafe next door. They’ve also enjoyed building relationships with their customers and clients.

“When you have retailing in your blood, you need that connection with people every day,” Appel said. “You go through generations of a family and help decorate and become part of their family… you put your heart and soul into this.”

The plan for now is to sell all of the store’s goods through August and shut down thereafter. In the meantime, they’re looking for a new spot to house their interior design business. “I don’t have any ideas for where we might go. I think that’s something I’m looking forward to hearing about from customers and clients this summer,” Appel said.

He added that he and Whitehead have “been friends since elementary school, and we’re like brothers. We’re gonna hang through this, see what happens.”

Ethan McLeod
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