By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
4:30 PM EDT, June 11, 2014
Louise Mullan Flanigan, who owned and operated the Ambassador Gift Shop for six decades in a landmark Tuscany-Canterbury apartment house her father built, died Saturday in her sleep of undetermined causes at Blakehurst Retirement Community. She was 101 and had lived in Guilford.
Born Clementine Louise Mullan in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Thomas F. Mullan, a builder, and his wife, Clementine L. Mullen, a homemaker. Her father was an original owner of the Baltimore Colts and was later treasurer of the Baltimore Orioles, beginning in the 1954 season. He founded the Mullan Contracting Co. after the 1904 Great Baltimore Fire.
She was a 1930 graduate of Mount Saint Agnes High School and earned a degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she presented a scholarship every year from her family's charitable foundation.
After leaving the Maryland Institute, she decided to start her own gift business and ran a shop for 62 years. She dressed formally in tailored suits and wore half-frame glasses.
"It was September 1933 when Miss Louise opened her gift shop on the ground level of the Tudor Revival-style apartment house her father had constructed at Canterbury Road and 39th Street," said a 1994 Baltimore Sun article. "The building was called the Ambassador, cost $1 million in Depression dollars to build, and remains to this day one of the neighborhood's finest addresses."
In that article, she said the building was "always special" because it was the tallest apartment building her father's company had constructed at that time.
"We sold cards and magazines, and we also carried the Racing Form. The little ladies came in and bought it. So did the men. I guess we were known for it," she said.
Mrs. Flanigan ran the shop with a cousin, Virginia Detrow.
"Virginia and I went on our first buying trip to New York in the early 1930s," she said in the 1994 article. "I think we had $98, and that was for the train fare and the hotel. We bought cards, pottery and toys."
After her father's death, she and her three brothers inherited the Ambassador Apartments, along with his other real estate holdings.
"Customers at her little shop would never have known the tall woman who stood so erectly behind the counter owned the 11 stories above," said the 1994 Sun article. "Some years ago, the [Mullans] sold the building to a Kansas City owner, but she retained her little shop whose entrance is off 39th Street. ... She exhibits consummate patience with her customers, who are often in no immediate hurry to make their selections."
She placed her customers' purchases in paper bags printed with purple violets. She said that some buyers reused the bags to wrap sandwiches for bridge games.
"The shop is unashamedly old-fashioned. It carries a large inventory of men's and women's handkerchiefs, priced at $1.95 to $20," said The Sun's article. "Grandchildren bring in their grandmothers for an afternoon's worth of selecting handbags, scarves, note cards and novelties."
In 1994, she married John Leo Flanigan Jr., a family friend who owned a construction business. She then closed the shop.
She said in The Sun interview that a customer came in to thank her during her final days at the shop.
"I said, 'To thank me for what?,' " she said. " 'For giving me hope' was her reply."
She said that her new husband promised to carry the luggage for the trips she took.
"It's been a fairy tale with a happy ending," she said.
Family members said Mrs. Flanigan enjoyed world travel. On her 80th birthday she visited the North Pole; she had visited Antarctica several years before. She circled the Earth five times and made stops in China, India, Morocco and 123 other countries.
After residing for many years at the Carrollton on Greenway — another apartment house her father built — she moved to Blakehurst nearly 15 years ago.
"She attended all the family gathering of her nieces and nephews," said Timothy Mullan, a nephew, who lives in Baltimore. "She was a wonderful lady and a kind person."
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at noon Wednesday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. 5300 N. Charles St.
Survivors include additional nieces and nephews. Her husband of eight years died in 2002. She is also survived by his four sons, John L. Flanigan III of Cedarcroft, Joseph H. Flanigan of Perry Hall, Daniel P. Flanigan of Towson and David C. Flanigan of Frostburg; and his four daughters, Mary L. Tillman of Stoneleigh, Rosemary F. Beers of Towson, Evelyn L. Sias of Tuckerton, N.J., and Susan M. Flanigan of Washington, D.C.
Due to incorrect information provided to The Baltimore Sun by a funeral home, the wrong photo originally accompanied the obituary published June 3 for Louise Mullan Flanigan.
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