Eclecticity is a store that lives up to its name. Thousands of new and gently used books are shelved along the walls or stacked in strategic locations throughout the rooms of the downtown Westminster store; original artwork, music, culinary goods, artisanal soaps and other handmade goods from local craftspeople line every available countertop, wall and nook.
A comfy chair and hot beverage area fill in the cozy atmosphere with a slightly Celtic flair.
Running an independent bookstore in the age of Internet super-retailers and big box booksellers is a challenge. But, it is one that owner Shawn Lockhart readily accepts because her John Street store is not just a business to her - it's a place to nurture and celebrate new writers and artists.
"The whole premise of this place was to give artists a place to show and tell their work," she said.
Lockhart puts her money behind her mission. She said she doesn't take a salary from the business. She pays herself when she sells some of her own artwork, primarily hand-printed and colored linocuts, and puts the rest of the money back into promoting the art community she loves.
So, when her landlord told her the building was going on the market this month, she wasn't sure how she would be able to continue the business. Lockhart fears the new owner might raise rent because of the extensive renovations needed to the historic building. She can't buy the building herself and she doesn't have reserves to move.
"Being a creative person, I needed a creative solution," said Lockhart.
What she came up with was the Fund-A-Home silent auction. Until the end of March, Lockhart is auctioning off more than a dozen pieces donated by local artists who want her to stay in the downtown area, as well as a large volume of her own work.
Lockhart said she decided to open Eclecticity after her former employer, Locust Books, closed in 2010.
"I love books and every downtown needs a bookstore," she said. "I am trying to do my best to fill that hole as well."
Susan Williamson, visual arts coordinator with the Carroll County Arts Council, is a regular visitor to Eclecticity. She has exhibited her own work there and has a piece of her jewelry in the silent auction.
People felt a tremendous loss when Locust Books closed, Williamson said, and when Lockhart opened her store, the focus was on books.
Since that time, Eclecticity expanded to include spaces dedicated to local artists of multiple mediums.
"It's the perfect mix of a wonderful space," Williamson said. "It's something we need more of."
The first Friday of every month, Eclecticity exhibits works from a new artist. Lockhart invites local authors to speak whenever possible. She said the patio is an excellent place in which to see a local band when the weather is nice. And, although space might be tight indoors during the winter, she has hosted musicians there as well.
"It's an open venue," Lockhart said. Artists don't have to be established for her to show or sell their work.
Lockhart said she only charges 20 to 25 percent commission on the products she sells for local artists, a figure she said is below the standard commission rate of galleries. She said she does this because she is an artist herself and wants to give others a chance to prosper from their work.
Other artists with work up for bid in the Fund-A-Home auction include Phil Grout, Christina Collins-Smith, Michelle Loewer, Mark Giardino, Tom Cantwell, Trista Fedoruk, Jo Morrison, Bev Hirt, Deb Lamb and Mara Lockhart.