So long, Schnapp Shop: City Paper staff reflects on the beloved neighborhood liquor store, which has closed after 30 years

After some three decades, the venerated Charles Village liquor store and bodega the Schnapp Shop closed on July 1.

A note left on the door of the store, nestled in the ground floor of the Peabody Apartments on E. 30th Street, read: "THANK YOU!! To All Of Our Friends + Customers For 30 GREAT YEARS!! We Will Relocate And Open Anew. We Hope To See You Again Soon!! schnappshop@gmail.com."

An email inquiry sent to that address asking about future plans and reasons for the closure was not immediately returned.

The Schnapp Shop may not have had the selection of, say, The Wine Source, or even its nearby competitor Eddie's Liquors, but it was a convenient, no-frills way to grab boozy essentials, along with some household staples and the best friend of wine, liquor, or beer: snacks.

The entire Peabody Apartments complex was bought in November 2016 by Peabody LLC, a company registered to an address in Rockville, for $2.25 million, according to public records. One of the members of the ownership group, Jessica Liang, said there are plans to renovate the Schnapp Shop space, as well as the building's apartments, and that they were talking to prospective tenants about new concepts.

Citing the surrounding population of students and young professionals and the growing development in the neighborhood, Liang said it's time for something new.

"It's time for a change and we want to make it more appealing to the new generation," she said.

Though the group is considering ideas that might incorporate prepared food and coffee service, like a cafe, Liang stressed that the end result is "still going to provide convenience to the neighborhood."

With such a long history, the Schnapp Shop is more than just any old corner liquor store, though. Here, three City Paper writers and Charles Village residents reflect on the store. (Brandon Weigel) 

It is April 14, dark, an unusually warm spring night and I am walking my two dogs on their tandem leash up N. Calvert Street on my way to the Schnapp Shop to pick up a six-pack.

Standing at the corner of 28th Street, waiting for a break in traffic, a man reaches down to pet my sometimes squirrely Belgian Shepherd. I hope she will not bite him.

"They're so sweet when they look at you," he says.

"Yes," I say.

"So gentle."

"Yes," I hope.

"That's why I can't resist a cub," he says.

The traffic has cleared and we cross the street. We are going the same direction, continuing to talk amiably in the warm evening as we amble along. I wonder at his use of "cub." I am not sure what we are talking about. Did a bear at the National Zoo recently give birth amid great media fanfare? Did one escape? Did I miss some breaking news? He speaks as if I know. I pretend to. "Cubs are cute," I say.

"People are sometimes cruel to animals," he says. "I don't get that."

"Me either."

"I just look at that cub with its big feet—and I can't resist it," he says.

"Hmm," I say.

"I give it milk and some mash so, you know, it knows that it's not in the wild and won't turn around and bite me when it gets older," he says.

Curiosity gets the best of me. "What kind of cub do you have?"

"It's a lion," he says.

I look again at him, a slight older man with a beard wearing three layers and a knitted cap on this humid night.

"Oh," I say.

"He's friendly," he says.

"Good."

"I think he'll stay that way," he says.

He keeps walking; I turn right because I have reached the Schnapp Shop.

"Have a good evening," he says.

Later, I will record the conversation in my journal because—well, why wouldn't I? But at the time I merely descended the two steps to the Schnapp Shop, waited to be buzzed in, and stood a long time in front of the refrigerated section as if I couldn't make up my mind about beer though I always get the same thing, Duckpin. Surveying the labels—Resurrection, Tell Tale Heart, 51 Rye—I thought about the teasers Baltimoreans throw out, the tiny glimpses of interior life we see and build on as we move about this city peopled with strangers who behave in familiar ways—did that man on the street (possibly homeless, likely delusional) invite me to envision a living room, TV blaring in front of a plaid couch, a lion cub curled on a dog bed in the corner? I opened the refrigerator, grabbed my six-pack, and walked to the cashier, an older woman who I had chatted with a million times—about the weather, about the new high-rise on Charles, about the saplings the city was planting here but neglecting to water, about the petition customers were signing in 2012 when the Liquor Board threatened to shut down this place because it was located in a residential rather than commercial area, about urbanist Jane Jacobs and her definition of walkable cities, about the folks who lived around here and liked walking to buy their liquor. This is same woman who sometimes saved me bagels in the walk-in freezer because she knew I loved them and when she had her weekly Sunday visit with her daughter, who ran a bakery in the Pennsylvania Dutch region, she would always bring back a slew of bagels to sell or give away in the Schnapp Shop on Mondays . . . and I don't even know her name. Now she is gone, the Schnapp Shop closed, the man with his lion cub disappeared along the evolving streetscape of Charles Village.

I walked to the door, six-pack in hand, and paused—the habit ran deep—waiting to be buzzed out, gone, just like that. (Karen Houppert)

What you do at your nearby corner store says a lot about you, at times revealing things about yourself your closest friends and family may not know. Though we rarely exchanged more than hellos and thank yous, I feel like the folks behind the counter at the Schnapp Shop came to know me well in the two years I've lived in the neighborhood. They may have gathered that I can't stomach most beer but some weeks will return day after day for wine; that I make a lot of soup but almost always underestimate the amount of stock I need; that I'm a value pack consumer even if the only multi-pack paper towel option is printed with Minions—or, I kinda like Minions; that I celebrate good news with their cheapest bottle of champagne (what they don't know is that I'm just drinking it with my roommate while watching "Lord of the Rings" and eating Cheez-Its—same way I digest bad news); that if there's a dog waiting for its human on a leash just outside, I'm going to stop and talk to it; that summer for me is stocking up on those individually sold popsicles that are mostly frozen strawberries; that I will still buy the white lighter if it's the only one they have left; that I don't really have eyebrows but draw them on and pretty much only leave the house without them to make emergency Schnapp Shop runs.

But really, they're probably not taking notes—I hope not anyway. (Maura Callahan)

It was not just a liquor store, but a landmark too. Getting a ride home from someone, I'd tell them, "turn right at the Schnapp Shop," because 30th Street kinda sneaks up on you, but that big sign shines bright. Friends visiting from out of town always preferred going to the Schnapp Shop over any of the other walkable liquor stores—because where else in this town can you buy beer and Oreos in the same place? (OK, right, the Rite Aid on Greenmount, yes, but it's not the same.)

It's a strange and probably mildly dependent and messed up relationship one has to one's neighborhood liquor store. I've buzzed into the Schnapp Shop probably once a week on average since I moved to the neighborhood in 2014—usually for a six-pack (otherwise, I'd make up a reason to treat myself or celebrate with a bottle of rosé or champagne); or some emergency seltzer; a late-night, desperate boxed mac and cheese dinner; laundry detergent; milk; toilet paper; chips; cat litter; Ben & Jerry's; single-pack Little Debbies; a can of "vegetarian vegetable" soup.

My conversations with the owners almost never went beyond the formal hi-how-are-you-fine-thanks-sign-here-please-ok-thank-you-goodnight. I often projected onto the place in a big way as if the people who ran it cared that much about my habits, as if they were family—Am I coming here too often? Am I a disappointment? Do I need to, like, get my life on track in some way? I'm still going to buy this thing of New Belgium though . . . because I want it.

But maybe projecting like that isn't too outlandish—strangers impress on us all the time. Particularly when they're kind. Recently, my roommate and I were searching for the right bottle of champagne to celebrate some bad-news-turned-good-news (that later became really bad news, but that's another story). We noticed the chilled champagne was a couple dollars more expensive than the room temperature bottles, but they sold us a chilled bottle for the room temp price. And when we first moved in around the corner, one of our other roommates went into the Schnapp Shop and asked if they had any produce, which didn't seem out of the ordinary given the sundries they were able to fit into that little basement. The woman reached behind the counter and gave her an onion for free. We remind each other of that story every now and then, and whenever the Schnapp Shop comes up in conversation with friends (more often than you'd expect)—that small moment of sweet, eccentric kindness, among many others for many years in this tiny neighborhood spot. My roommates and I are mulling over getting tattoos of an onion, in memoriam. (Rebekah Kirkman)

Copyright © 2017, Baltimore City Paper, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Privacy Policy
75°