Duff Goldman credits Baltimore for all of his success.

The owner of Charm City Cakes and star of the Food Network’s now-defunct “Ace of Cakes” believes he may have gone down a different career path if not for “the best city in the country.”

So for Goldman, who now lives in Los Angeles, coming back for this year’s Baltimore Homecoming event was simply a no-brainer.

“We supplied the tools and talent, but Baltimore supplied us with our direction,” he says. “Baltimore is a quirky, artsy city and embraced the kinds of cakes we were making. When my friends and I started baking cakes, we weren’t trying to change the cake industry. But because people in the city want quality, creative and soulful things, I was pushed to do that.”

The second annual Baltimore Homecoming will take place from Oct. 16-18 in multiple locations around the city. A kickoff party will be held on Oct. 17 from 6-10:30 p.m. at the Broadway Market and The Choptank in Fells Point, followed by an after-party at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel in Fells Point.

The three-days-long, invitation-only event — designed to bring accomplished Baltimore “alumni” back to the city and mobilize reinvestment — is coordinated by a nonprofit of the same name. More than 125 people are expected to attend this year.

Founded in 2017 by J.M. Schapiro of Continental Realty Corp. and Nate Loewentheil of the Camber Creek venture capital firm, Baltimore Homecoming Inc. focuses on reconnecting successful Baltimore natives and former residents from around the world to Charm City “to reawaken and deepen personal ties with the city.”

Baltimore Homecoming was founded in 2017 by J.M. Schapiro of Continental Realty Corp. and Nate Loewentheil of the Camber Creek venture capital firm.
Baltimore Homecoming was founded in 2017 by J.M. Schapiro of Continental Realty Corp. and Nate Loewentheil of the Camber Creek venture capital firm.

“It allows people to engage with Baltimore city and see with their own eyes the many organizations doing wonderful things in Baltimore,” says Schapiro, a fifth-generation Baltimorean. “Sometimes the headlines don’t tell the whole story, and we want to change that by bringing people back to Baltimore to develop real connections and relationships.”

Based on a Detroit model, this year’s Baltimore Homecoming will include fireside chats with such famous Baltimoreans as filmmaker Barry Levinson and baseball legend Brooks Robinson. There will also be site visits to organizations making a positive impact on the city, such as Baltimore Center Stage, the Made In Baltimore retail store and the University of Maryland BioPark, as well as an awards ceremony honoring local heroes.

“With a highly educated workforce that starts with the universities, as well as a vibrant restaurant and entertainment scene, we are starting to see a lot of energy around millennials who are moving back to the city,” says Schapiro. “That’s not to say the city doesn’t have challenges, and we recognize them, but at the same time we need to recognize what is positive about Baltimore and what should bring people back.”

Let ‘Em Eat Cake

Duff Goldman looks forward to participating in the Homecoming. He will serve as one of seven co-chairs for this year’s gathering.

“The people that are participating in the event are the ones who truly love Baltimore. The place means something to everyone who will be there. The character of who we are is defined by Baltimore,” says Goldman, 44, who moved here as a freshman to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “Baltimore is a fertile place where a seed of nice ideas can turn into incredible successes.”

After college, Goldman went to culinary school, and worked in California and Vail, Col., before returning to Baltimore to join a band with college friends. He started baking cakes in his Mount Vernon apartment while trying to become a rock star.

“I had a non-traditional path in life, and Baltimore really nurtured that for me,” Goldman says. “There are a lot of people doing unconventional things in the city, and we felt with ‘Ace of Cakes’ it was important to make Baltimore a character on the show so we could show the world how amazing the city is. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as at home anywhere as I do in Baltimore. Even though I wasn’t born in Baltimore, it’s where I belong.”

Charm City Cakes now has 15 employees and operates out of a Remington building owned by Goldman. He also has a bakery in L.A. called Charm City West. The majority of Goldman’s employees are not bakers but individuals with creative backgrounds.

“Baking the cake is pretty straightforward, it’s the art that is difficult,” says Goldman. “I find it’s easier to teach artists how to bake than bakers how to do art.”

A ‘New Narrative’

To provide returnees with a complete narrative of the contemporary local scene, Baltimore Homecoming will feature discussions with Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael S. Harrison

“There will be a significant reality interjected into the proceedings that will give people a good picture as to where the city is and why we believe it has so much to offer,” says Dan Schochor, executive director of Baltimore Homecoming Inc. “Homecoming’s role is to make sure there is fair messaging about the incredible people and businesses that are currently occupying the city, as well as an understanding as to what Baltimore can grow to become.”

Says former Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who will serve as a co-chair: “Baltimore Homecoming is a way to put forth a new narrative, and what I like about it is it’s positive and constructive, yet also realistic. It is where we can stop whining and start winning.

“I want to do anything I can to boost Baltimore and its future,” she says. “I have felt for some time that we don’t always recognize and utilize the talents or assets we have, and this is a new, fresh approach of creating buzz in the community.”

With one of the fastest growing ports in the nation, an educated population and a lower cost of living than other major metropolitan regions, Baltimore offers an attractive place to start a business or relocate a company, says Mikulski.

“In Baltimore, there are opportunities to earn a living with the traditional economy, such as the port as well as the new economy, which is based in science, technology, the Internet and the digital economy,” she says. “We are far more robust than people give us credit for, and Homecoming shines light on why it’s important to invest in Baltimore.”

For information, visit baltimorehomecoming.com.

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