Photo via Women’s Exchange

The Women’s Exchange on N. Charles Street, once the site of a lunchroom known for its tomato aspic and chicken salad, has launched a new effort to find partners and affiliates to help repurpose its commercial spaces so it can carry on its mission to help women gain economic independence.

The Exchange today put out a call for expressions of interest from individuals or groups that would like to work with the nonprofit. The organization describes itself as “Maryland’s oldest, longest continually operating 501c(3) dedicated to improving the lives of regional women.” April 17 is the deadline for replies.

“The board of directors of The Women’s Exchange wishes to benefit the community by repurposing our commercial spaces, including our kitchen, dining room and/or shop space,” the organization states on its website.

To that end, the group said in a separate announcement that it is “seeking partners or affiliates as it begins a renewed mission of training women to become economically self-sufficient.”

“The Board of Directors wants to explore new and creative approaches in empowering women to become financially stable by coupling the organization’s time, real estate/space, financial resources, and creative intellect with other partner organization(s) in Baltimore,” the offering stated. “The goal is to avoid creating new programs, but to support other organizations in addressing their demand and any capacity constraints by offering the resources of The Exchange.”

Established in 1882, The Exchange owns an 1815 townhouse at 333 N. Charles Street with a five-story addition on the rear. It’s a mixed-use structure with room for two restaurants, offices, meeting rooms and seven apartments.

Current tenants include Jack and Zach Food, a restaurant with an entrance on the Pleasant Street side, and the offices of Maryland Capital Enterprises, a nonprofit. Those spaces were not included in the offering. A spokesman for Jack and Zach said that business will remain.

For years, the first level contained a lunchroom and gift shop featuring handcrafted, locally made goods. Those spaces are currently dormant and available.

A questionnaire prepared for potential partners indicates available spaces in the building include the main kitchen, the dining room, the storefront and meeting space.

The call for proposals grew out of a 2016 planning effort initiated by the Exchange’s board of directors.

“Working with nonprofit consultant Kate Scherr-Adams, we spent three months considering our illustrious history, current economic environment and, most importantly, the mission of our organization,” members said in a company overview. “Out of these sessions, we identified our desire to couple The Exchange’s time, real estate/space, financial resources and creative intellect with other partner organization(s).”

The board “feels a strong, vibrant kinship with the women who founded our organization over 130 years ago,” said board president Vickie Gray, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be part of this legacy, and we hope others will join us as we continue strengthening and expanding our mission.”

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