After 25 years, Westminster's Hickory Stick to close

After 25 years, Westminster's Hickory Stick to close
Owner Sandy Scott helps Grant Hibberd of Westminster pick out a gift at the Hickory Stick on Christmas Eve, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

Surrounded by colorful wraps, trendy handbags and sparkling jewelry, Hickory Stick owner Sandy Scott expertly wrapped a last-minute gift for a hurried shopper on Christmas Eve. For Scott, the gift will be one of the last she wraps at the Westminster location. She plans to close the store on Jan. 31.

"I have met some of the neatest people through the store," Scott said. "The relationships are one of the biggest things I'll miss."


Scott said she is closing the store after 25 years because the retail business continues to slow down.

"Expenses are up, and the sales are not following suit. We have a lot of competition, so this seemed like the right time," Scott said.

Scott, who taught at North Carroll High School for eight years, bought the business from Martha Hopkins in 1990. At the time, both of Scott's children had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and she wanted to spend more time with them; the business gave her flexibility to do that.

"I was a stay-at-home mom for a year and a half, and I loved shopping at the Martha's Hickory Stick. It was a pleasant place to lose myself," Scott said.

With the help of business partner Cindy Raub, Scott purchased the store's name and inventory. During Pennsylvania Avenue's construction in 1995, Scott and Raub moved the shop to Ain't That a Frame's former location on Liberty Street.

"Changing locations really helped the store explode," Scott said.

In 1998, Scott's daughter, Lindsay, died. She was 12. Scott said her customers and employees helped her family through the grieving process.

"If I didn't have the store at that point, I would have lost my mind," Scott said.

In 1999, Scott said Raub was ready to sell the business but she wanted to remain open.

"I wasn't ready, so I decided to keep it open on my own," Scott said, adding, "The business continued to grow, evolving from country primitive collectibles to fashion accessories, handbags and apparel. In 2000, I introduced the Vera Bradley line and Zoppini Italian charm bracelets when they were all the rage. I just kept riding the waves of new trends."

After the economy tanked in 2008, Scott's business began to decline.

"Customers were always looking for bargains," Scott said.

But that didn't deter Scott. In 2009, Scott opened a second Hickory Stick location in Rock Hall.

"The location in Rock Hall is great because we have a captive audience. There's not much to do, and they come right off their boats," Scott said.


Scott said her business suffered another blow when she lost employee Lori Metzger to lung cancer.

"She was such a talented merchandiser and buyer. Lori was such an incredible influence in the store," Scott said.

Scott said the loss, as well as the declining sales, encouraged her to shutter the store and concentrate on her Rock Hall location.

"I don't want to start online sales. I enjoy people and developing relationships," Scott said.

Scott's husband, Steve, said the store has been a gift from God for his wife.

"The relationships she has with her customers is incredible," said Steve. "It helped encourage her and provided a livelihood."

Employee Maggie Hossler, who has worked at the Hickory Stick since 2011, said working for Scott has been like working for family.

"I love working for Sandy, she's such a great boss. I don't know that I'll find that again. She's taught me so much," Hossler said.

Loyal customer Donna Lentino, of Westminster, said she wasn't sure where she would find another store like the Hickory Stick.

"It breaks my heart. I love the store. They have such an incredible, personable staff who really are like personal shoppers. You don't find that anywhere else. Walking into the Hickory Stick feels like family," Lentino said.

Shelley Chinskey, of Westminster, was also saddened to hear the news.

"There was always a great gift to buy," Chinskey said. "The real beauty of that store is Sandy and her staff. It's local and personal. It's what's best about a small town store."

Customer Suzie Lawyer, of Finksburg, said the loss of the store is a loss for the community.

"I think what I liked best about it was the small town shopping experience," Lawyer said. "You became friends with the people who worked there. It was warm, friendly and inviting. Now where will I get unique gifts for people?"

Scott said she plans to transfer much of her merchandise to the Rock Hall location. She plans to sell many of the display fixtures.