Tom Fitzpatrick, President & COO of Greenberg Gibbons, Ruth Shaw owners Brian Comes and Ray Mitchener, and Brian Gibbons, Chairman and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons celebrate the announcement of Ruth Shaw’s move to the Shops at Kenilworth.
Tom Fitzpatrick, President & COO of Greenberg Gibbons, Ruth Shaw owners Brian Comes and Ray Mitchener, and Brian Gibbons, Chairman and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons celebrate the announcement of Ruth Shaw’s move to the Shops at Kenilworth.

After 44 years at The Village of Cross Keys, specialty retailer Ruth Shaw is moving to The Shops at Kenilworth in Towson.

Ruth Shaw owner Ray Mitchener announced this week that the new store will open around September 7 at The Shops at Kenilworth, which is in the midst of a $20 million expansion.

The Kenilworth location will be a combination of both Ruth Shaw, which opened in 1973, and The Girl Next Door, an offshoot of Ruth Shaw that opened three years ago. The Girl Next Door will cease to exist as a separate entity.

Jay Jenkins of Jenkins Baer Associates is designing the new Ruth Shaw store. It will be located across from the newly opened Trader Joe’s market on the second level of The Shops at Kenilworth, 800 Kenilworth Drive.

“It is very bittersweet to leave here,” said Mitchener, who started working with Ruth Shaw in 1977 and later bought the business from its founder. “We have some very loyal customers. But this opportunity was too good to pass up…It’s a way of being in on something that’s very exciting, a $20 million investment.”

Known as a leading source for “luxury fashion” in the Baltimore area, Ruth Shaw sells women’s apparel from a variety of sought-after European and American designers, including Alexander Wang, Rag and Bone, The Row, Self Portrait, Max Mara and others. It’s also known for its knowledgeable staffers, who can help style outfits.

Ruth Shaw was the first tenant to open in the second phase of the retail section of the Village of Cross Keys, a pioneering mixed-use development on Falls Road, by local businessman James Rouse.

Mitchener said Ruth Shaw has been approached to relocate by many different developers over the years, in the Baltimore area and Washington, D. C.  He said the owners of The Shops at Kenilworth, Greenberg Gibbons, approached him about moving to Kenilworth, rather than him approaching them.

He said he chose to move to Kenilworth because of the investment in the expansion and the owner’s vision for the development and its tenant mix, which he said reminds him of the Village of Cross Keys in its early years.

Mitchener said Greenberg Gibbons is creating a destination where it will be possible for shoppers to go to Trader Joe’s, to Ruth Shaw, to Lingerie Lingerie, to a salon and other businesses, all in one trip. He said he can already see opportunities to collaborate with other tenants at Kenilworth, such as having a fashion show and wine tasting in conjunction with the wine shop there.

“It’s building on the idea of what the Rouse Company thought of for Cross Keys,” he said.  “It’s one-stop shopping.”

The new store will have 3,100 square feet of space. The Cross Keys store also has 3,100 square feet of space, and The Girl Next Door has another 1,000 square feet.

Mitchener said the new store will have more “selling space” and less back of the house space than the Cross Keys store. He said it will give the staff of 11 a chance to explore new ideas and meet new customers.

“At 45, a lot of us need a little tweaking,” he said. “A new location gives us a fresh start and hopefully new customers who might not have discovered us.”

It’s always good to be part of something new, he added. “Fashion changes all the time. You have to stay on top of it.”

Greenberg Gibbons began managing The Shops at Kenilworth in July 2014 and assumed full ownership of the property in April 2015. Its phased-in renovation includes updating the exterior and interior and making Kenilworth a more contemporary and welcoming specialty shopping and community gathering place. All of the work is targeted for completion by this fall.

Bringing in Ruth Shaw is part of the owner’s strategy of repositioning the mall and establishing a different tone for it. Its lead tenant for many years was the Stebbins Anderson gifts and home goods store, which relocated from York Road in the heart of Towson when it was essentially a hardware store.

Ruth Shaw will join a mix of fashion and beauty retailers from the Baltimore area, including South Moon Under, Jos. A. Bank and About Faces Day Spa and Salon. Several new stores have opened at The Shops at Kenilworth within the past year, including Amaryllis, Quiet Storm, LizaByrd and Zen Life.

“Ruth Shaw’s unique selection of high-end fashion apparel and accessories make it a Baltimore area icon,” said Brian Gibbons, Chairman and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons, in a statement. “The store will add to the vibrant new energy of this revitalized community gem.”

Mitchener said he didn’t consider having two locations in Baltimore and couldn’t now because of a non-compete lease clause. He said he hopes his customers at Cross Keys will follow the business to Kenilworth when it opens after Labor Day. Since the announcement, he said. “I’ve had a good reaction from customers.”

Mitchener said he remembers a time when James Rouse visited the store in the 1970s and told then-owner Ruth Shaw he didn’t think it would be around long.

“He said, it’s not going to last because there’s nothing else like it,” Mitchener said. “But it’s nearly 45 years later, and we’re still here.”

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