Connie’s Chicken & Waffles owners plan food hall near Coppin State

Connie’s Chicken & Waffles started out as a single stall at Lexington Market in 2016. Three years later, the team behind the eatery is getting ready to manage an entire food hall.

Brothers Shawn and Khari Parker are assembling a roster of tenants — including the newest addition to the growing Connie’s chain — for a food hall at Walbrook Mill, a new apartment complex planned next to Coppin State University in West Baltimore.

The project, which broke ground early this year, will also bring 65 affordable housing units, a bank and offices for the Coppin Heights Community Development Corp. to 2636 W. North Ave. The site was home to the Walbrook Mill & Lumber Co. until it moved to Cockeysville a decade ago. The business later closed altogether.

The property was still a lumber yard when Shawn was a student at Coppin State. The 2009 alum says it would have been convenient to have a space like the planned food hall to hang out with friends. The North Avenue corridor surrounding the university has a large number of blighted properties and a dearth of businesses selling food.

The Parker brothers decided to get involved in the project after connecting with a Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore employee while hosting a Connie’s pop-up at the R. House food hall in Remington. They liked the idea of bringing new dining options to an area that doesn’t have many dining options beyond a TGI Friday’s.

“It’s really exciting, because in this neighborhood specifically, there’s not a lot of sit-down dining spaces,” Khari said. “It’s a food, restaurant desert in a sense.”

When it’s complete, the new food hall will have eight food vendors and a bar. The brothers hope the 6,600-square-foot space will be ready in time for a May 2020 opening.

Though they aren’t yet ready to share a list of vendors, Shawn said stalls will sell burgers and fries, vegan and vegetarian dishes, Caribbean food, rice bowls, gyros and stuffed baked potatoes. He and Khari are still searching for an ice cream or baked goods vendor.

They’re recruiting locally for vendors and employees at the food hall.

“It’s really important to have folks from the community involved,” Khari said.

The food hall will feature an L-shaped layout similar to R. House, with stalls lining the walls and an open center area with seating for at least 90 people as well as a stage for events.

The Walbrook Mill development is a joint effort of Annapolis-based Osprey Property Cos., Neighborhood Housing Services and the Coppin Heights CDC. The $20 million project is partially funded by Gov. Larry Hogan’s Project Core initiative, as well as federal low income housing tax credits.

James Riggs, Osprey’s vice president, said the apartments are slated to be complete late this year. Applications to become a resident will open in October.

When the food hall opens a few months later, it will house the fifth location for Connie’s. In addition to Lexington Market, the eatery has stalls at Charles Plaza, Broadway Market and the Deco food hall in Wilmington, Delaware.

“We’ve learned the food piece,” Khari said. “It was an exciting challenge, a next step for the business.”

 by: Amanda Yeager