In February it is easy to find love stories posted, printed and shared. These cold, gray days cry out for good news, warm feelings and light-hearted experience. The best stories, though, are not small in scope, but reach beyond one or two people and touch the hearts of many. The story of the Minás Gallery is such a story. It is about a boutique, the couple that runs it and their ongoing, requited love for their community. The Minás Gallery, once in Fells Point and now in Hampden, is a unique place. The vintage retail boutique doubles as an art space and hub for the community to gather and to explore ideas in art, literature, politics, and creative expression.
Minás came to Baltimore, from Greece, in 1976. He opened the Gallery in Fells Point a few years after graduating from Maryland Institute College of the Arts.
Peggy graduated from Washington College. She, too, was an artist at the time. She wandered into an opening one day where she met the handsome, charming philosopher. Minás kissed her hand and insisted that she put her contact information into the guest book, which was made of thick brown paper and tied with a string. Minás still has that book today and proudly showed it off while we were talking. Peggy gave her information that night. She stayed at the party long enough to leave an indelible impression on Minás who called her shortly after that and insisted that she go out with him.
“I was dating someone at the time,” Peggy said with an impish smile. “Minás told me to break up with him and so I did.”
They both laughed and exchanged glance.
Their first date was at Ikaros, an authentic Greek restaurant in East Baltimore. They found so much in common that it was easy to see a future together. Peggy resigned her position as the Dean of Housing at Towson and ran the jewelry line in the store. It was challenging and money was tight but they were happy.
When Hurricane Isabell blew into Baltimore in 2003 it changed their thinking. The two went over to a local bait and tackle shop to buy matching hip-waiters and waded into their store, which was flooded to the waist. The damage and disruption shook them to the core. They were renting at the time and decided they should move to higher ground and purchase a place.
“We wanted to feel like we had some control over our fate.” Peggy explained.
I wondered, as I listened, if either one of them knew how much influence they would have over the fate of others in the years to come.
They influenced me personally when I moved to Baltimore in 2006. I was a broken hearted, empty nester who knew no one in town. I strolled into the store and was greeted by two of the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met. They invited me to their events as if I was an old, dear friend and at their events I met wonderful people and discovered the burgeoning creative community here.
On any given night they opened their upstairs gallery to offer the community such gifts as yoga, belly dancing, fiction readings, poetry series, and their open mic, which let anyone who had anything to share have a moment to share it.
Although Minás is a prolific and ever evolving artist of considerable reputation, the gallery was not reserved for his work alone. Over the years it has exhibited some of the most prominent artists in Baltimore as well as the most promising new artists.
The gallery has been host to the longest ongoing poetry series in Baltimore which started in 1992 at the Fells Point location and continues to this day with their Essential Sundays Celebration.
I have personally witnessed the evolution of several writers into successfully published authors. Many of them launched at the 510 Reading Series, run by Jen Michalski.
Peggy and Minás worked together as a team. His strengths made up for her weakness and vice versa.
Each event they hosted was a veritable who’s who of the Baltimore Art and Literature crowd. Peggy’s event planning skills were so on the mark that after a certain point it stopped being work. The store was the job and the rest was what they felt they were meant to do with their life.
“It was not a plan to get rich,” Peggy said, “But I loved going to work every day.”
Now, after 22 years of loving service to Baltimore and the arts, Minás and Peggy are ready to turn to another chapter in their story. Minás has decided to dedicate himself full time to his art. Peggy is looking forward to applying her considerable management skills and her extensive creative connections to local non-profits within the arts.
I was in the store today as I have been so many times over the years. I looked around at the vintage and contemporary clothing and accessories and remembered how many times Peggy helped me and my theater people sort through to find the perfect costume for any number of characters. I looked through the glass case that holds the unique and affordable jewelry, some of which is locally-made and I am thankful that I had the chance to stock my jewelry box with it. I thumbed through the books of local poetry and fiction that line the shelves and served as wonderful examples of what Baltimore has to offer.
Minás and Peggy will continue to support each other, the community and the arts for years to come but the store will be permanently closed mid-March. Now is the time to stop by and thank them for all they have done for us. While you’re there be sure to pick up an item or two now that everything is deeply discounted or grab a seat at one of the events that are planned through the end of February.