Imani Smith

Online Managing Editor

9 February 2023

Image courtesy of Imani Smith

The Savage Mill building has been an industrial hot spot ever since it was built by a family of Howard County settlers, descending from Revolutionary Navy hero commodore Joshua Barney, in the early 1800s. The textile mill thrived off of the Middle and Little Patuxent rivers, which run a mere few feet away from the building. Today, the building still stands as a flourishing activity complex where locals come to shop for art, beauty services, dine, or engage in popular pastimes. The antique center in particular, centered within the complex, could be considered the heart of the modern establishment.

The business had three locations in the 1990s, this current site having been the third established and only one left. It is owned by Julie Baker, but managed by Diane Baker, her daughter. Diane Baker worked for  the family business intermittently since 1988, but started working full-time after December 2015, when her mother retired because of a back injury.

According to the Savage Mill’s website, Julie Baker and her sister, Evelyn Huber, founded Vintage Antiques to fulfill their dreams of performing antique shows together. The sisters opened a small shop in Ellicott City where antique dealers could display their items and share the profit.

About 85 dealers currently rent out spaces in the shop. Diane said, “They bring their stuff in, they tag it and pay for the space outright, so each person has a booth based on square footage. We sell it and then we pay them every week. So we do all the processing and they get handed a check on Fridays.”

“We have at least one [dealer] that’s been here since 1988,” she continued. “And then we’ve got people selling Barbies now, and toys that I was too old to play with in the 90s. Now they’re collectibles, which hurts my feelings a little bit.”

Diane explained that dealers specialize in many different kinds of antiques, including silver, French pottery, oak furniture, or vintage clothing. The store’s wide repertoire attracts shoppers and collectors of all ages with varying interests. Vintage clothing has been especially popular among the younger demographic lately, especially at the Antique Center. Diane also mentioned that records and jewelry had been selling well recently.

Diane said that you could walk out of the store having spent five dollars or thirty-thousand dollars. She also said that they “don’t have boring customers” because shoppers are “just so knowledgeable.” The store’s regular clientele have been shopping at Vintage Antiques for over 35 years. According to Diane, it is like Cheers but without the beer.”

Naomi Belay, a junior at Atholton and shopper at the antique center, expressed her infatuation with the frequent progression of the store. “I don’t go there often,” she mentioned, “but every time I do it looks completely different, and it feels new to me again.” She specified that the dolls were one of the most interesting parts of the store, because “they all tell a different story, seeing as though they are all different shapes, sizes, colors and materials.”

Belay claimed to like vintage items because they represent someone’s experiences in the past, and because “you are able to own something special that nobody else in the world has.”

In comparison to previous decades, pop-culture trends come and go much quicker as a result of influencer culture and fast-fashion. “This was probably before social media,” started Diane, “but Martha Stewart had a show where she featured jadeite, then suddenly everybody wanted jadeite, but now you don’t really see it.”

Diane does not often indulge in such trends, or like to wear vintage clothing herself, but enjoys seeing it on other people. Having worked part-time at the antique shop since the 80s, and full time for 8 years, one of her favorite things about the job is learning new things from the customers. She explained that Savage Mill is “doing some great things,” and “we don’t see it stopping anytime soon.”

“There’s community among the staff and the dealers, and there’s community between the staff and the customers,” Diane stated. “It is a very community oriented business. It’s a family.” She finally noted, “it sounds cheesy, but there really is something for everyone, you know?”

Posted by Imani Smith

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