Alice Ann Finnerty, a former nurse at Union Memorial Hospital, was raising six children in Guilford when she paid $5,000 to buy The Turnover Shop in 1978.
On the check she wrote, "Oh, happy day."
Now 75 and a matriarch of the Hampden business community, Finnerty says, "Maybe it's time for me to enjoy life and those 19 grandchildren."
Finnerty, who now runs the consignment shop with her daughter, Alice Ann Martin, will celebrate her 35th year as owner on Sept. 7.
She will also be honored by the website mycity4her.com on Sept. 18 as a Spirited Women of Baltimore for 2013. The website's goal is to empower and inspire women in business, according to its home page.
Finnerty is still looking ahead to the future of Hampden, remarking on issues ranging from an influx of ambitious restaurants to the need for more parking.
Finnerty stoked much of Hampden's commercial growth as founding president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association and creator of the slogan, "It's happening in Hampden."
She has served on the boards of institutions and civic organizations ranging from Union Memorial Hospital to the Hampden Community Council and has been was awarded citations from the mayor's and governor's office.
Finnerty formed a coalition of the merchants association, the community council, the Hampden Midtown Kiwanis and the Junior League of Baltimore to open the Hampden Family Center in 1995. The center offers services from financial assistance in paying utility bills to after-school tutoring and activities for seniors.
She is also former owner of the defunct but well-remembered Finnerteas Tea Room in the 3500 block of Chestnut Avenue, which was so heavily damaged in a 2007 storm that its roof blew onto The Avenue. It closed after four years.
She also owned a second Turnover Shop for six or seven years, next door to Finnerteas, but it too was damaged in the storm ,and she decided to close it and focus on the original shop, she said.
The original Turnover Shop, surrounded by senior citizen high rises and continuing care retirement communities, dates to 1943.
Finnerty bought the shop from Richard and Dorothy Mollett, who own the upscale inn Antrim 1844 in Taneytown.
As the first seniors moved into Roland Park Place in 1984, Finnerty negotiated to take, for consignment, their clothing, furniture and other contents that they no longer needed as they downsized.
After college, Martin asked her mother if she could work in the shop until she got "a real job." Now, she is the co-operator and future owner. Her mother is bequeathing the shop to her.
Business was brisk during a recent visit to the shop, 3855 Roland Ave. Billed in its brochure as Baltimore's oldest consignment shop, it looks much as it always has, with a small staff of longtime employees, including cousins Mary Alice Gahan and Mary Ellen Wist, both of whom are nearing three decades there.
"I think that's one of the things that's so wonderful about the shop. It hasn't changed," Martin said.
Around it, the greater Hampden area is changing, with The Avenue reinvented as a corridor of boutique stores and restaurants, the Rotunda mall being redeveloped and Remington slated for major new developments, including a shopping center with a Walmart. It's not the same as it was when Finnerty formed the merchants' association with seven members and everyone got a broom with their membership.
"We worked The Avenue," she said.
But change has been for the better, Finnerty thinks. She would like to see a municipal parking garage and more attention to education.
"They need to improve the schools so they'll be able to keep people in Hampden," she said.
She prefers the upcoming Hampdenfest with its neighborhood feel to the more commercial HonFest, but admits that HonFest attracts more notice.
Overall, she describes Hampden as "up and coming," with "location, location, location," as a calling card.
"Young people are moving back into Hampden," she said.
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As for the future of Hampden, "It's all good," Finnerty said. "It's an exciting place to be."