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Cockeysville’s Clearing House furniture consignment store that raised funds for House of Ruth closing after 40 years

The Clearing House, a family-owned consignment shop in Cockeysville that during its 40-year run raised more than $180,000 to help women and children in need, will be closing in February due to the financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

The shop, which sells furniture, household items, jewelry, sterling silver items and home accessories, will officially close Feb. 21.

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Consignors and customers said The Clearing House’s impending closure was “the end of an era” and that it had built a reputation for not only giving back to the community, but for cultivating a warm and welcoming environment.

For Michelle Stupak, a consignor with the shop, The Clearing House and its employees “will always have a place in my heart,” she wrote in an email to Lisa Hudson, Clearing House owner and operator.

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“I know it must have been a difficult decision, but I also know that everyone who has been with you throughout the years — consignors, customers and employees — are better for having had the experience of watching the business grow into the wonderful entity that it has become,” Stupak wrote.

The store first opened in 1980 in a small, “shoebox-sized” space on Church Lane three times smaller than its Padonia Park Shopping Center location, Hudson said.

Hudson, whose mother started the consignment business with two other women (none of whom had experience running a business), grew up helping out at the shop, manning the sales counter in her Notre Dame Preparatory school uniform.

At the time, Hudson said, there were few places that carried furniture Hudson’s mother or her friends could afford.

“They just created a niche here in Baltimore County for people who were moving” or collecting antiques at a time when the antique business was taking off, she said, and the shop quickly outgrew its building, expanding to a 7,000-square-foot space in just five years.

Hudson, who went on to become a special education teacher for preschool students, returned to run the Clearing House part time with her sister around 2000, at her mother’s request and under her guidance. The two traded off baby-sitting duties.

Hudson has run the shop alone since her sister departed two years ago, she said.

“We were kind of thrown into it and really had to learn everything from the ground up,” Hudson said. “We were fortunate that so many of our staff, who some had started with mom, still stayed and were great mentors to us.”

Hudson and her employees “worked really hard to create an environment where people feel welcomed,” she said.

“We were still just this tiny little store that had a big heart for giving back to the community and welcomed you in like an old friend when you walked in the door,” she said.

Carrying on an initiative her mother began in 1990, Hudson organized annual sidewalk sales the Wednesday after Labor Day, with all profits going to the House of Ruth, a nonprofit that provides resources and aid to domestic abuse survivors, of which Hudson is a board member.

When she sensed the store might not survive the pandemic — on top of the rise of online shopping — Hudson was determined to hold one last fundraiser this year.

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The sale raised $11,000 for House of Ruth, which has had to cancel several fundraisers this year.

Comparatively, the fundraiser had made $1,000 the year prior, Hudson said.

The fundraiser has been a significant one for the nonprofit over the years, said Sandi Timmons, executive director for the nonprofit.

Over the years, Timmons said, “countless people” approached House of Ruth staff during the sidewalk sale “to share stories of how they, or someone they care about, were helped by our programs.”

Through tears, Hudson said the fundraiser “was like my Christmas.”

“You work so hard for it,” she said, adding the stories shared by women who have been helped by the nonprofit moved her.

“I love the fact that we were doing such a good thing” for people in need, she said. “I’m just really proud of that.”

The Clearing House also, for decades, had a partnership with Earl’s Place Transitional Housing, a program that provides housing and social services for recently released incarcerated men, hiring many of them to move furniture at the shop.

“They just need someone to believe in them,” she said.

Hudson is unsure of what she will do once the shop closes, but says she’s flattered by those in the antique business who have reached out to her with job suggestions.

She wants to do something that brings her the same joy as the sidewalk sale, although it may take some time.

The Clearing House is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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