A monthly feature exploring the stores, restaurants and sights of Maryland neighborhoods.
Catonsville's shopping district is already known for its splendid hodgepodge of possibilities for artisans and musicians. It's easy to get lost in the corridor's sensory pleasures, from looking at bolts of mesmerizing batiks at Seminole
Sampler to listening as a customer tries out a 12-string guitar at Bill's Music Store.
Proclaimed "Music City Maryland" by the state legislature in 2002, Catonsville has long drawn musicians from afar to its cluster of music shops.With a side-by-side trio of stores specializing in the needle arts, the shopping district is also a haven for lovers of traditional crafts.
Now, after a recent streetscape makeover supported by the national Main Street program and the repurposing of several historic storefronts, the commercial district
centered on Frederick Road awaits new visitors in search of an afternoon's diversion -- and perhaps a ukulele. Here are some ideas for spending time in Catonsville:
1. Seminole Sampler, 10 a.m.
71 Mellor Ave.
Begin in the soothing atmosphere of Seminole Sampler in the Mews shopping complex, where employees guide quilters around tricky corners and through piecing
puzzles. Bolts of gorgeous fabrics, coordinated by color, are therapeutic, even for the
non-sewer. But even she or he may leave with a pack of "fat quarters," inexpensive fabric remnants that may inspire a first foray into an enduring art form.
2. The Stitching Post, 10:30 a.m.
67 Mellor Ave.
Next door, the Stitching Post has everything required for doing cross-stitch and
needlepoint, including all-important magnifiers for fine work. Needlepoint charts
(patterns) range from $4 for small designs to $40 for large, intricate projects. Business has prospered in part from the economic downturn, says shop owner Melinda Zachary. "People are staying home and looking for something to do with their hands in the evening."
3. Appalachian Bluegrass, 10:45 a.m.
643 Frederick Road
Around the corner from the Mews, Appalachian Bluegrass holds plugged-in pop
culture at bay with its collection of acoustic guitars, mandolins, dobros, autoharps,
banjos and ukuleles. On Saturdays, the shop is a "destination drive" for musicians
from as far away as New York and Pittsburgh, says owner Emory Knode. They
come to buy, to have instruments repaired and to share lore with the shop's knowledgeable staff. And if you've ever thought about picking up an instrument but feared you'd flop, take heart from Knode, who says, "No one is truly tone deaf." Besides, starter ukuleles only cost $29.
4. Plymouth Wallpaper, 11 a.m.
720 Frederick Road
Because it is a mainstay -- and a quirky one at that -- the Plymouth Wallpaper company is a must-see. You'll find miles of wallpaper patterned with apple blossoms, sunflowers and such. Beyond the sign "Welcome to Border City," there's a room dedicated, naturally, to wallpaper borders. You can also score a genuine sea sponge for $1.89, a secondhand fur coat or a cookie jar shaped like a Hawaiian shirt.
5. SugarBakers Cakes, 11:15 a.m.
752 Frederick Road
Duck into SugarBakers to ogle its stupendous wedding cakes or purchase an apple-pie cheesecake for $24 or a lemon tart for $3.50. When a frilly little room in the bakery isn't in use for wedding-cake consultations, you can take a seat there and sip some coffee before continuing on your Catonsville idyll.