Hey friends, I’m sorry I’ve been so shotty about updating. As you all know, the world has gone crazy, and I’ve been feeling a little under the weather. I hope you’re not mad that I took some time off – I spent most of last week resting up, and as a result, I feel so much better.
Now, bear with me for a quick moment. With everything going on in the world, it’s important for us to be good human beings. That means helping those who are most vulnerable, whether it be running groceries/errands for the elderly, purchasing gift cards to support small business owners, and/or donating resources to those in need.
I’m been ordering out, checking in on loved ones, and purchasing GCs for various giveaways to help support the community while treating you guys at the same time.
Image shot by Jan Galvan Photography for The Codex Club.
I really want to use my platform for good so I’m going to start featuring local businesses on here more and more. To kick things off, I asked the incomparable Andrea McKinnon to talk about her Baltimorean boutique, The Codex Club, along with her journey and her overall badassity. I hope you guys enjoy her responses as much as I did!
Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to open your shop? Have you always been passionate about retail?
I’m a marketer, designer and actress with over ten years of experience, mostly in New York but also Maryland. I graduated from Parsons School of Design and remember how competitive it and the city was, which is why I have a heart for hiring young artists at my store still. It was always important to me to connect with others who liked shopping small and making creative products. I got married in August and am expecting my first baby this summer!
The desire to open my business largely came from relationships with Baltimore makers, starting with the women sitting next to me at my first design job here in Baltimore. We were in a pretty corporate environment, and I could see how happy they were drawing things in our free time. I want to do things that truly make me happy and I love working with people who enjoy that as well.
Not sure if I always loved retail, but I always had a very strong work ethic thanks to Chinese parents who came to the U.S. and met in graduate school.
My first job at 15 was in a laundromat for minimum wage in Houston, which I think was around $5 an hour back then, emptying dirty clothes bags and taking orders. I felt like I won the lottery when I got a slightly less menial job at the local mall later that summer, at a clothing store where we had to wear high heels and smile all the time. It was hard work, but you saw in real ways, what customers were thinking, and feeling. I always appreciate in-person feedback and think that’s the key to having a business serve their audience well.
When did you first open The Codex Club?
I opened my shop September 7, 2019 in Remington Row, across from R. House, thanks to the Remington Storefront Challenge funded by Seawall and Johns Hopkins with other partners. Before that I’d held a holiday store at Arundel Mills Mall, and was operating as an online store with popups and events around Baltimore, Since September 2015.
How did you decide on the name?
My husband and I came up with the name because we always loved stories and the idea of a book club. The word codex means a handmade book from a time where people were starting to bind and hand-letter and illustrate manuscripts. The club was originally the women I started the Etsy with, now it’s everyone who supports handmade, unique items.
Why did you decide to move TCC to Baltimore?
The growth of Baltimore, and it’s culture as a city, is integral to the mission of the codex club. When I did the holiday store at Arundel Mills Mall, it was profitable, but not long-term what I saw for the business. We were paying the county, to promote the city.
Conversely, I think creating TCC in New York would’ve been hard because recognizing makers at similar popups would’ve just been more difficult, and creating the relationships I have with makers would’ve been different. I think we’d be able to do this in other cities in the future, but my heart is in Baltimore and I think it shows in the inventory and curation so far.
What makes Baltimore special to you? Why did you decide to stay in Charm City?
Baltimore is incredibly unique and special to me. It has the access to NY and DC and a Northeast feel similar to those cities at times, while also being technically in the South with community-based feel, similar to my upbringing in TX. For some reason this combination is unlike any other place I’ve ever lived, and I was able to build a life here with my husband that I value a lot. I was approached a little while ago to open a location in Philly, and that has some similarities I see with Baltimore, for the future. But that’s why I’ve stayed in Charm City thus far!
You’re passionate about supporting local designers – can you please tell me about the artisans you carry and why you chose to sell their products at The Codex Club?
Yes! One of the best sellers includes Emily Uchityl, who makes posters and cards of animal-themed oil paintings on vintage wallpapers. She agreed to be the first featured artist here in-store. To promote her items, I printed her Raven painting very large as a pop of color in the store entryway.
Tiny Dog Press posters, cards and coasters are also staples in the store. Kari’s Baltimore-centric screen prints are charming and unique. A little birdie told me she’ll be the next featured large format print. She’s been a great friend and partner to work with for a few years now.
Jon Richardson (Jon’s Design Company) is a great example of what I hope to see sellers do as far as growth. We were the first store to feature him, before he was doing popups and farmers markets, but I considered being the first permanent stocker a big honor, and offered suggestions and ideas on how to merchandise and display his products, to increase his sales, which worked really well this past holiday season. He makes gorgeous cutting boards, coasters, and more. Since we started working together, he’s also started stocking at other stores and continues to grow.
Do you have any special discounts available (ie.student, military, etc.)?
I offer a local neighbors discounts for people who live nearby on their first visit, because this store is for the neighborhood! Every holiday we do something special as well, and there’s often online discounts for those who visit the website, thecodexclub.com.
How often do you change your collection? Do you feature new products weekly, monthly, etc.
Every time customers come into the store, or log into the website, I want them to see new items everywhere. It’s important to keep things fresh, so every week the staff and I are changing displays, social media assets, and inventory.
What are 3 of your favorite items in your store right now and why.
Currently I’m loving the Knit Soy Metal ‘Lady Day’ candle Letta Moore makes. She always has amazing scents, but recently told me about this one and I’m obsessed. It’s named after Billy Holiday, who often wore a gardenia in her hair. This has that same gardenia inspired, floral scent, and especially with Women’s Day coming up I love that she was such a strong female artist with a history in Baltimore.
Another favorite item right now is the Valentines Day cards by Nora Jayne that we’re stocking (they say ‘Brie Mine’, ‘Love at First Swipe’, and more). They’re all super cute and clever. I think she’s a great person as well, with a heart for social justice. Check out her designs if you haven’t!
Matt from Pangea Printing makes the most amazing Baltimore-themed unisex and men’s hoodies and t-shirts. They’re soft to the touch and often very clever designs. I think it’s important to stock men’s items, especially t-shirts, because women wear men’s shirts, but it’s not so often that it’s reversed. People don’t always expect it when they walk in based on preconceptions on boutiques traditionally, but I feel strongly that we should try to have something great for any gender and body type.
I’ve been missing the Spring, so my final favorite for you (in case you want an extra) are flower jewelry items- we have ones by Remington artist Magan Ruthke with real pressed flower earrings from the garden right next to R. House, and hand-cut brass necklaces, rings and earrings by Katherine of Finneran Jewelry. They both also work at the store with me sometimes.
What are some difficulties you’ve faced as a small business owner.
I don’t think people realize that as a small business owner, I’m also often the janitor, customer service, professional packer, marketing department and more in any given day. It’s not always fun, retail can be stressful at times. But I’m much happier now than I ever was before this. I don’t regret it, ever, and want others to know it’s possible and incredibly fulfilling to start and grow your own business. Every time a customer tells me how much their purchase means to them or someone they gifted it to, it makes my day.
And what has been the most rewarding experience?
The store recently won ‘Favorite Localist Retailer’ in Made in Baltimore’s Makers Choice Awards, which was voted on by my peers and fellow makers who I respect. It meant a lot to see that they value what I do and the priority I put on shopping local at the codex club.
Do you have plans to expand? What’s in store for TCC’s future?
This is a great question. I never thought a year ago that we’d be where are, and a year before that I thought the same thing, I think it’s important to always be growing and learning, without over-stretching ourselves as a small business. Depending on the right location, I could see us opening additional new storefronts, more to come on that though!
Do you sell anywhere other than your brick & mortar? If so, which markets, festivals, etc.
Every month we try to do a popup or event either at the store or offsite. In February I hosted a local flower bar the weekend before Valentines Day, and March 25th we’ll be popping up at Monument City Brewing company nearby 5-9pm. You can also find original codex club products (jewelry, cards, and clothing) at Doubledutch Boutique in Hampden.
Where do you like to shop in Baltimore?
Name a Baltimorean girl boss who you inspire.
One supportive advocate and friend to the store has been Sarahbeth Ramsay. She’s created an incredible marketing business for herself and is always sharing great ideas for lifestyle and things to do in Baltimore. I love that she’s been a fan of Baltimore-made goods and shopping local as well. As a human, I respect how strong she is, and kind. I’m thankful she exists and recommend you check out Boho Marketing if you haven’t and want to know more about social media!
A huge thanks to Andrea for giving such thoughtful responses for my latest! Definitely make sure to browse her collection online and/or visit her boutique if you’re in Charm City. The Codex Club is located at 2700 Remington Avenue #1100 in Baltimore, MD, and it’s open Monday through Sunday from 11AM-7PM. Stay tuned for more features like this, and feel free to make requests – I’m always happy to hear from you guys. For more on DMV adventures, check out this tab and keep an eye out for more. Bye for now!