George Brown, long-time owner of Gianni’s Pizza in Severn Square, is passing the torch on to his daughter Georgi at the community institution. Photo: Mark R. Smith

Location, location location

Gianni’s Pizza, Severn

Understand one thing about Gianni’s: it’s way more than just a pizzeria that’s located across from Fort Meade.

“It’s an institution,” said George Brown, the owner of the business and the first tenant at Severn Square in 1985. That’s due to the food and the service, but just as importantly the good vibes that have emanated for decades from the establishment after his initial $200,000 investment.

Need proof? Check out Gianni’s new U.S. map. It features a fast-growing amount of pins that represent where its customers from the past 38 years live today ― some of whom “still drive 90 minutes” to visit, reminisce, laugh and chow down, he said.

“Three things make a pizzeria successful,” said Brown. “A solid business community to attract a lunch crowd, local schools to get an afternoon rush and a large surrounding community to get a dinner rush. Great food attracts customers regardless, but locating here allowed us to start serving the first of, in some cases, five generations.”

Gianni’s being a sit-down establishment also contributes to that neighborly feel. “I don’t use delivery services because I can’t track their food,” he said of his clientele. “I’ve eaten with them, vacationed with them and they’ve come to my house,” he said. “These people are my family.”

Renovations coming
New 2 Us Consignments, Odenton

Adam Evans works from an odd spot in the retail spectrum. He’s operated New 2 Us Consignments, on Odenton Road, for almost 15 years, but with a Goodwill store located about a mile away and, of course, the always looming presence of EBay.

“Some people think we’re a thrift shop, others an antique store,” said Evans of the 3,000-square-foot consignment business that he believes is “the last in the local area.” It’s always brimming with product, ranging from video games to furniture to off-the-wall knick-knacks.

“At the moment, we have 64 consignments,” he said. “It looks like I’m running an EBay store. It’s the same principle, but I don’t sell online because I serve this community.”

While Square, Evans’ financial platform, is up to date, he knows that it’s time to update the shop’s pedestrian appearance. That’s calling for “a major renovation,” he said, which will include new shelving and a more organized presentation.

“I plan to have it done before Christmas. I hope that will bring our business back to where it was before COVID-19,” Evans said.

 Optimistic about December
Welcome Home, Annapolis

In May 2021, Jenn Baker Laucik and husband John Laucik were already running a successful small business, the Chester River Wine & Cheese Co., on Maryland’s Upper Eastern Shore. So as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to dissipate, they started a second business, this one on State Circle in Downtown Annapolis.

They opened Welcome Home, which sells culinary tools, table linens and tableware, with a smattering of gourmet specialty food gifts. “Think of it as Anthropologie and Williams-Sonoma having a more affordable love child,” said Baker Laucik.

But as the pandemic was subsiding, two not-so-funny things happened on the way to success: the Hillman garage construction made it more challenging to park Downtown, which was followed by the demolition of the State House Office Building on nearby North Street.

“When the Hillman Garage shut down, that alone caused the shops on Maryland Avenue to lose about 20%  of their revenue or more,” said Baker Laucik. While the garage has reopened, the detour signs for the unfinished office building are still up.

Still, the couple has held their own and remain optimistic. “The three nights each December of Midnight Madness are akin to a slower month in business,” she said, “and the busy holiday season helps keep us afloat.”

Building hockey
Maryland Black Bears, Odenton

Chris Rogers took over as president of the North American Hockey League’s Maryland Black Bears after the July departure of Robyn Remick. Since then, he’s been focused on continuing her good record of further integrating the franchise into the community.

“That’s what we’ve been doing more since COVID-19 began to wane,” said Rogers. “We try to get the players out at least once a week to the youth hockey programs to grow the sport and our presence.”

He said the Black Bears are “averaging 375-400 per game” at Piney Orchard Ice Arena, which holds 500 spectators. “Sometimes one weekend game outdraws the other. Also bear in mind that we start on Labor Day, when hockey isn’t front of mind. People start thinking rink more toward the holidays.”

Since the mid-Atlantic isn’t a traditional hockey haven, community integration is critical, as are the fortunes of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals. “Their success is a tremendous boost to the fortunes of local programs,” said Rogers, noting that flexible sponsorship deals are also boosting the Black Bears’ bottom line.

“But we work to build the sport, period,” Rogers said. “A healthy hockey ecosystem is good for all concerned.”

New store coming
Third Eye Comics, Annapolis

Business has been solid of late at Annapolis-based Third Eye Comics. Not only has business gone up “about 20 percent per year” since the pandemic, President Steve Anderson said the company was also able to take advantage of “good opportunities,” in the region, which led to opening new locations in Southern Maryland and suburban Richmond, Va.

But Third Eye’s latest growth is occurring right at its Annapolis headquarters on Chinquapin Round Road in an 8,000-square-foot space between its two main stores. The new space will feature vinyl, Blu-rays, DVDs and eventually CDs coming at the new location that was occupied by the City of Annapolis.

The new store sits right between Third Eye Comics and its sister store, Third Eye Games, which are both 7,000-square-foot locations that operate around the corner from what Anderson calls its “small throwback store with more vintage stuff” on Margaret Avenue.

With the holidays approaching, Anderson and company will pause buying product to handle the rush, then focus on opening the new space on Jan 27 while contemplating Third-Eye’s next expansion.

“I’m going to put Third Eye locations everywhere. For now, we’re looking in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. The irony is,” he said, “that I was happy to just have the first store.”