Expanded retail space

Jones Securities, Gambrills

Charlie Jones is a former Anne Arundel County police officer who has wanted to expand his ammunition distributorship, Jones Securities, since it opened about a decade ago. That dream became a reality when he signed a three-year lease for a 4,500-square-foot retail space in June. And in a big way.

“We have not only opened,” said Jones, “but now present the largest walk-through ‘2A’ (as in the Second Amendment) ammunition warehouse on the East Coast.”

That means that the public can shop in-house, though “only on Saturdays. Otherwise, it’s by appointment,” he said, with the rest of his workweek spent supplying major retailers like the Bass Pro Shops, Lucky Gunner, Outdoor Ltd., “and most online retailers.”

Crossing over to retail required a special C-4 zoning permit from the county, plus occupancy, sales and tax use licenses, which Jones called “the easy part of the transition. The hard part is establishing relationships with manufacturers and customers.

“It cost from $10,000-$15,000 to start this business,” he said, though judging by his early returns, the investment was solid. “The retail side has been phenomenal, with customers coming from all over the DMV, with some help from Instagram influencers,” which include himself at Real_LordofWar.

‘Back where we belong’

Transformations, Odenton

Transformations in Odenton. (Submitted photo)

Last spring, Rebecca Perry, owner of Transformations, had a problem. “We operated in Seven Oaks Shopping Center, in Odenton, for 19 years,” she said, “and never missed rent on our 6,900-square-foot space, even during COVID-19, and had just completed a multiyear lease.”

So the business had enjoyed “a great relationship with its original landlord for 17 years,” Perry said, and was leasing month-to-month “with the new landlord.”

There is now a medical facility in the space where they were.

That meant many of Transformation’s clients had to drive to its Pasadena location while Perry scouted for a new space. “That’s when Stuart Title of A.J. Properties led us to the last 4,200 square feet,” she said, “that was available in the Odenton Shopping Center.”

That’s proven a winner, but moving into the 60-year-old strip center presented some challenges. “We took a conservative approach with repairs while negotiating Anne Arundel County’s permitting process,” said Perry, “and they required a considerable investment, so we received a few months of free rent.”

Renovations started in June and the local location reopened in August, “and it’s been great,” she said. “We’re back where we belong, with great visibility, next to Giant, Five Guys and the U.S. Post Office.”

‘No-judgment zone

Photo Archivers, Columbia

Photo Archivers, Columbia. (Submitted photo)

When Rachel Jenkins started Photo Archivers in 2010, she did it the old-fashioned way: organizing images ― under the name Scrap My Pics ― and organizing them in scrapbooks.”

But that model wasn’t sustainable in today’s digital age. So in 2014 Jenkins started digitizing photos “because that makes it easier to create family history books, wedding albums, etc.,” she said, and built out its current Red Branch Road shop two years later. It wasn’t until last spring that the business’s name became Photo Archivers “to better reflect what we do.”

Not surprisingly, the sizes of the bounties it scans vary greatly.

“They may receive two tubs or 10. We have four part-time employees, including two photographers who shoot the older, more fragile items with cameras,” said Jenkins, “though we typically can scan hundreds of photos an hour before post-processing.”

Scanning and organizing a typical collection can cost thousands of dollars. “Today people shoot more photos in a year than our families did in a lifetime,” she said, “so I never imagined such great demand.”

And while the hazards of the profession include “seeing some things that we can’t unsee,” she said with a laugh, “that’s OK. We run a no-judgment zone.”

Shipping nationwide

R&L Crab Co., Columbia

From left, La Midleton, Zack Lawrence, Jeff Perry and Rae Middleton of R&L Crab Co. pose with a crab.

During COVID-19, Rae and La Middleton, identical twins/servers from Laurel, were unemployed and restless. They had the idea to found R&L Crab Co. and offer a new twist on an old delivery model.

“We are the first crab business service in Washington, D.C./Maryland area,” said Rae Middleton, “that offers nationwide shipping.”

It was in August 2020 that the twins started working out of their Mother’s Whiskey Bottom home, with the plan to open on Laurel’s Main Street; however, destiny intervened and they began working out of Mess Hall, a well-known ghost kitchen in D.C. It was in May 2022 that they leased 1,800 square feet at Columbia Gateway Plaza.

The twins have invested “more $125,000 from savings and other directions” in the business, Middleton said. But R&L’s big boost came via media exposure on Good Morning America, NPR, etc., and most notably Washington’s WJLA-TV. 

But of course, this story is really about taste. “We steam the crabs in a (secret) local domestic beer and J.O. Spice. Everything is fresh-to-order,” she said, and R&L relies on four contracted drivers, who “do about 200 deliveries a week.”

The next step will hopefully be a 50-seat dine-in section. “That could take another year,” Middleton said, “since we have to build the bathrooms first.”

Big, bold move

Games and Stuff, Glen Burnie

Games and Stuff currently operates out of Cromwell Fields Shopping Center. However, that will change by early October.

Paul Alexander Butler has owned the business outright since 2017. He said the growth at the 8,000-square-foot location has been “tremendous” during the past three years, so he’s making The Big, Bold Move to a longtime prime location in ‘The Burn,” Harundale Shopping Center, which lies at the bustling intersection of Ritchie Highway and Aquahart Road.

The new location, a whopping 25,000-square-foot space that once housed Home Goods, also offers a sea of parking. At Harundale, GandS will become “the second largest game store in the country.”

While ecommerce is still the buzz in retail, at GandS, which posts “nearly $3 million annually in gross revenues, 90 percent” of its business comes through the front door, Butler said.

All that new space will be “used for board games and better presentation of merchandise,” he said, while he and his staff of 20 work to make GandS “a destination with tournaments, private game rooms and new merchandise lines,” such as Lego products.

“Our growth has been from mass-market customers that don’t usually identify as gamers,” Butler said, “so just the increase in vehicular and walk-by traffic will help immeasurably.”

HCEDA’s Leveraging Investment for Future Transformation Fund, or “LIFT” Fund

Business loans are essential tools that empower small businesses, fostering growth, creditworthiness, and positive lender relationships. Unlike limited grants, loans offer versatility and long-term benefits. They drive business expansion with flexible funds, making them strategic assets for enduring success. HCEDA supports Howard County businesses by offering vital financial resources and flexible capital access through our business finance programs. Discover more about our loan programs below!

HCEDA’s LIFT Fund provides 3-5 year microloans ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 to empower small businesses, including minority, women, and veteran-owned enterprises in Howard County. The MIC supplements these loans with resources, like business coaching, to ensure success. Funds can be used for working capital, equipment, and expansion.

Learn More About the LIFT Fund – https://hceda.org/business-support/catalyst-loans/lift-fund/