Tommy’s: Bringing New Things to Pigtown

| April 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

Tommy Fox began working in bars and restaurants as a 12-year-old child growing up in Dundalk.  Fox worked every position in the house from dishwasher to bartender to executive chef. Now he can add bar owner to that list.  Less than two years ago, Fox purchased a bar on 837 West Cross St. in Pigtown, naming it Tommy’s Downtown Tavern. Since then Fox has made a commitment not only to his bar, but to the Pigtown neighborhood.

Like many, Fox felt the affects of the housing crash of the late 2000s.  Fox was employed as a geotechnical engineer where he studied the soil and  conditions of many properties for  a booming real estate market.  Unfortunately when the housing market took a downturn in the latter part of the decade, so did the need for geotechnical engineers.  Fox turned back to the restaurant industry where he had lots of experience and connections.

Meanwhile Fox knew that he soon wanted a bar of his own.  Him and his family spent two years looking for the right deal, the right space and the right location.  Fox’s father, who spent many years as an MTA mechanic on Washington Blvd. in Pigtown, gave him a call telling him he had to get down to Pigtown.  They went to check out a bar at 837 West Cross St. and soon Tommy’s Downtown Tavern was born.

Pigtown, long seen as an up-and-coming downtown neighborhood, has ridden the highs and lows of the housing market.  Everyone was investing in Pigtown around 2004-2007, but unfortunately there weren’t enough buyers to occupy all of the investment.  Since then properties have been held vacant by speculators and rehabbed properties have many times been rented out to undesirable tenants.

When Fox opened Tommy’s Downtown Tavern in 2010, he believed Pigtown was a neighborhood that could live up to its potential and today believes Pigtown is back on the right track.  “Sixty couples have moved over to Pigtown from the Federal Hill area in the last few months,” Fox told SouthBMore.com.

Fox though isn’t just waiting around for things to happen, he has taken an active role in the community.  Fox moved from a single family home in Carroll County into the small apartment above his bar and is soon hoping to purchase the property.  Fox is an active member of  Pigtown Main Street and formed a neighborhood cleaning group with Adam Van Bavel.  The group does neighborhood cleanups twice a month and has even adopted a vacant lot across the street from Tommy’s, which has become a well manicured dog park for the community.

As far as other businesses in the community, Fox wanted his bar to be a pilot for what is possible in the community.  Tommy’s is the first bar in Pigtown to take credit cards, the first bar with craft beers and the first featuring a young professional crowd.  He also has some great ideas for the property if he is able to negotiate a sale.  “I’m hoping the success of our business can help to lure other business owners and other bars and restaurants to the community.  I love being here, but it is tough to be a destination bar – the more bars like ours the better,” said Fox.

With the close proximity, the thought of Pigtown becoming the next Federal Hill is a constant topic.  But most Pigtown residents and leaders are quick to tell you that they want to be different from Federal Hill.   “We definitely want to be like a Federal Hill bar, but attract a crowd that better fits Pigtown,” Fox told SouthBMore.com.  The neighborhood also has no use for the name Washington Village created for marketing purposes by the city of Baltimore.

As the local real estate market has strongly rebounded, Pigtown is certainly hoping they are on their way to reach their potential.  Live Baltimore, an organization that promotes city living, will be hosting a Pop-Up Event this Wednesday from 11am-7pm on the roof deck of 805 Scott St. where the residents and business owners of Pigtown will tell others why it is a great place to be.  If they talk to Fox, he’ll probably tell the prospective buyers what he told SouthBMore.com, “Pigtown is safe, quiet and unique. It’s a place with a great future. ”

If your in Pigtown as a resident or a visitor give Tommy’s a try.  Try one of their cheesesteaks, flavored vodkas or large selection of local beers.  And if you are in Pigtown as a perspective buyer, make sure to talk to  Fox – he’ll tell you some great things about the neighborhood!

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
Filed in: Dining, Pigtown
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