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John Brown Butchery

In scenic Shawan Valley, just west of Hunt Valley, stands an historic structure that has served the valley as various food venues and services since the 1930s. The original John Brown’s Store was a mercantile and the residence of the business owner. Today, John Brown General and Butchery serves a diverse selection of fresh meats, in-house prepared foods, baked and dried goods, and a seasonally curated selection of wine, beer and liquors. The Butchery is operated by master butchers Robert “Brooke” Voss and Ben Frey.

Owners’ request: Restore the Landmark structure to the Baltimore County landmark it has been known for – not a fit up, but an historic restoration in every way.

Plan of attack:

The owner hired ADW Architects of Towson to provide a plan for the interior of the new concept. Southfen Restoration Home Builder was hired to complete the interior renovations and restore the outside to the original condition. The plan called for the first floor bathroom to be moved to a small addition which required County Planning approval. Details of this addition and all interior cabinet work and built-in designs were provided by David Sutphen Design (architectural designer). Brumfield Woodworking designed and constructed the liquor cabinet.

Why the design works:

Since the original structure was a business and a residence, there was an inherent charm; like shopping in someone’s “home”. The owner wanted to recapture that charm. ADW and David Sutphen Design and Southfen worked in concert to achieve this goal. The Butchery was placed in the front right of the main stone building. This allowed immediate access by the patrons to the display cabinets and meat processing. The area near the fireplaces were designed to display general store inventory and liquor. David designed all the interior details i.e. bulkhead, fireplace built-ins with wood boxes, outside stair cover and cabinets other then the liquor cabinet. The design works because residential charm was built throughout the business spaces.

Designer secret:

The original architect of the store (1938) James Edmunds partnered with Bryden Hyden to form the Baltimore firm Edmunds – Hyde. David Sutphen worked on two Hyde projects in the mid 1980’s and shared those experiences with Brooke and Ben when designing the “charm” related details.

“Ah-ha” moment:

David Sutphen Design designed copper wood storage boxes for both fireplaces. Brooke and Ben approved the concept immediately sharing with David that Ben’s currently resided in a home with the same detail. David asked where Ben lives and it turns out that David designed and built those copper boxes in that residence 15 years ago. More than a coincidence.

Splurges and savings:

The savings came from Brooke and Ben’s resourcefulness in finding interesting and charming interior furnishings. No interior designer was used. The splurges can be seen in every detail as well as the mechanical upgrades to the entire electrical, plumbing and heating systems. No stone was left unturned. A testament to the Owner, Charlie Noell and Brooke and Ben and their commitment to do it right.

The nitty-gritty:

Working with the County proved to be a challenge. A business desiring to open to serve the community was delayed 5 months awaiting for approval of the bathroom addition.

Take-away:

Projects like this are one of a kind. The community, Baltimore County and the John Brown Store are the big winners. Charlie, Brooke and Ben are to be commended. Southfen and David Sutphen Design were fortunate to be retained to share our historic restoration experience and sensitivity. The combination of “commercial” and residential restoration “under of roof” proved to be a challenge we are proud to have accomplished.

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