March 1st 2005 - Urbanite - Baltimore's Up and Comers

Meet 20 people whose successes are making Charm City better.

by Urbanite Staff

Priya Rayadurg - 38 - Founder - Cloud 9 Clothing

In the risky world of retail last year, Priya Rayadurg did the unthinkable. She closed her original Cloud 9 women´s clothing store at Towson Town Center to focus on thriving shops in Hampden and Canton. Now she´s gambling on similar success with a new store-which, under a new name, will target a slightly older crowd-slated to open at Belvedere Square in April. With a current customer base that spans from teenagers to professional thirty-somethings, and now 35- to 40-year-olds with the new store, Rayadurg bets her city-centered strategy will succeed. The stores project a unique attitude, she says. "We have sort of become a destination."

Cloud 9 has also become that rare thing in Baltimore: a locally-based chain at a time when retail success odds in the city are spotty. Yet Cloud 9 has-methodically over a decade-gone from mall tchotchke kiosk to a multistore operation. It´s a strategy that makes "tremendous business sense," says Tim Hearn, a principal with commercial realtor KLNB Retail. "Those locations all have tremendous access to a young, hip urban population-either single or newly married," he says of the Hampden, Canton and Belvedere Square stores. "And that population doesn´t spend a lot of time in traditional mall locations."

Rayadurg and her husband, Randy Shayotovich, ran kiosks at the Towson mall in the early 1990s. In 1997, one kiosk selling hippie-style revival clothes morphed into Cloud 9, and just kept evolving-from earthy to clubby to, when the Hampden store opened in 2002, slightly older and artsy. And now, under the name Sweet Papaya, the Belvedere Square store will target women ages 35 to 40. "I just go by what I feel is going to be the newest trend," Rayadurg says.

-J.P.    full story link

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