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Comptroller encourages shopping locally for Maryland tax-free week

Comptroller encourages shopping locally for Maryland tax-free week
Beth Pocalyko, owner of John's Men's Clothing in Bel Air, holds up a pair of khaki shorts for Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot to look at during a visit Wednesday afternoon as he promoted tax-free shopping week in Maryland. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot bought a pair of jeans, khaki shorts and a belt at John’s Men’s Clothing on Pennsylvania Avenue in Bel Air Wednesday afternoon.

He stopped into the store, owned by the mother-daughter pair of Maureen Bruneau and Beth Pocalyko, to promote shopping locally and tax-free shopping week in Maryland, which begins Sunday and continues through Aug. 17.

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The state may lose $6 million in revenue during tax-free week, but it’s all for the good, the comptroller said.

“It helps you guys," Franchot told Pocalyko, “it makes consumers happy and I particularly like all the out-of-state license plates.”

Stores the size of John’s Men’s Clothing are important to the state, representing 60 to 70 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, he said.

“It’s not always guaranteed survival and success, but without you, we would not be able to provide jobs to our friends and neighbors, wages to them,” Franchot said. “We can’t do it on the government side; the private sector is important to us. Thank you, guys, for sticking your neck out and risking things.”

John’s has been open for about three months and Pocalyko said business has been going well and the community has been supportive.

“We fell in love with downtown Bel Air," she said. “All the stores are family run, others are mother-daughter. We were inspired by the community.”

Bruneau, who was not able to attend Franchot’s visit, and Pocalyko realized there were no shops in Bel Air just for men. Not only have women been shopping at John’s, the men have been coming in solo and “having a great time picking stuff up,” Pocalyko said.

The store is named after Bruneau’s son and Pocalyko’s brother John Cunningham, who died in 2015, and the logo is his signature.

“He was into fashion. He could look good in anything, from sweatpants to a button-down shirt for a wedding,” Pocalyko said. “He was the inspiration for us to try to find that feeling for every guy in the area.”

Franchot found that feeling in his new clothes, which he proudly carried out of the store. He also said he liked the coziness of the store.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, left, looks for a pair of jeans with Beth Pocalyko, owner of John's Men's Clothing in Bel Air, during a visit Wednesday afternoon.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, left, looks for a pair of jeans with Beth Pocalyko, owner of John's Men's Clothing in Bel Air, during a visit Wednesday afternoon. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

“We try to keep it simple. For men, with too many options, they get overwhelmed,” Pocalyko said.

“The key word for me is simple,” Franchot quipped.

He again encouraged Bruneau and Pocalyko in their business and thanked them for being part of the small business community.

“This will be for most bricks-and-mortar apparel stores the busiest week of the year, in the dog days of August,” Franchot said of the state’s tax holiday.

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From Aug. 11 to 17, qualifying apparel and footwear purchases of $100 or less per item are exempt from the state’s 6 percent sales tax. The first $40 of a backpack or bookbag purchase is also tax-free. Accessory items, except for backpacks, are not included.

During tax-free week, Maryland college students have a chance to win a $2,500 or $1,000 scholarship using social media.

Students can take a Maryland-themed photo or video while shopping, write a catchy caption and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #shopMDtaxfree, to be eligible for the scholarship.

“There’s no essay, no application, no interview,” Franchot said.

For more information on tax-free week, visit www.marylandtaxes.com.

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