Carmen Brock is the perfect combination of Southern charm and Baltimore grit, much like her home décor shop, Trohv. For the past 12 years, Brock has curated items reflective of both Hampden’s quirky character and her own personal warmth. Nestled on The Avenue, the shop is a staple in the community where friends always drag their out-of-town guests.
And she’s known for gravitating towards local artists. “I grew up in a family business that was incredibly resourceful and relied heavily on the community,” says Brock. Her parents saved their money to buy the tobacco and cattle farm in Kentucky where Brock grew up, a dream of theirs that taught their children the value of hard work. “I learned how to rely on other clever, resourceful, creative folk in the community,” she says. “I admired that structure.”
Leaving the farm for Georgetown College in Kentucky and then Emory University in Atlanta, Brock encountered a new type of community—one of artists and other creative types. The more Brock traveled, the more artists she met, instilling in her an intense love of handmade products of all kinds and a desire to one day open a store. “I had such a deep respect for these people who were making things and loving it so much and sustaining themselves off that,” she says. As her admiration and knowledge of the arts expanded, Brock landed here in Baltimore, not expecting to call it home for very long. She took a teaching job with the city schools while waiting to move on to the next thing, but she soon realized Baltimore was the ideal location for her to open Trohv, originally called Red Tree.
“Once we were settled here, Baltimore had its way with me. It sunk its claws in deep,” she says with a laugh. After quitting her teaching job, Brock took the risk, unsure at first how to hire a staff, how to keep up inventory, and if the shop would even survive.
It’s an understatement to say that Hampden benefited from Brock’s leap. Trohv’s unusual collection of small gifts, unique home décor, charming books, and one-of-a-kind art welcomes people to The Avenue, something Brock actively strives to accomplish. The store often features staff-made seasonal decorations, creative window displays, and small workshops with local artists.
“Even just getting a customer to come downstairs to me is a success. I don’t take that for granted. When someone walks in our door, it’s a gift,” Brock says with sincere Southern hospitality in her eyes.
Perhaps it’s the engrained importance of hospitality that made Brock decide to build her shop around home décor. To Brock, choosing locally made home goods is about more than just involving the community—it’s about giving customers access to pieces that reflect both them and the Baltimore spirit. “When I walk into someone’s home, I want to be able to know something about that person based on what they choose to live with every day, and that’s what I’m trying to create here.”
Everything Brock is trying to achieve with the store is reflected in her elaborate holiday window displays: They’re engaging for artists and customers alike, educational for the staff, and just a fun part of the job. “It’s been the joy of my life to work with local artists, and I’ve learned so much from them,” Brock says. “I think I’ll be a student forever, and I’ll always be learning about my environment and how to make things mutually beneficial.”