Most days of the year, Main Street in Fallston is an ordinary road with a few homes and a post office. The 350-yard strip is so unassuming, it doesn't even have lane markings.
But one weekend a month, this otherwise sleepy country road explodes into a home design destination.
Three stores — Farmhouse Design District, The Painted Mill and the Vintage Tin Can — host monthly tag sales at which serious vintage hunters and casual knickknack shoppers alike can find deals on one-of-a-kind reclaimed wooden tables and benches, antique chairs, old-style lanterns, hand-sewn pillows and more.
"We try to open up together as long as everyone can do it," says Sabrina Barney, owner of the Vintage Tin Can. "It's always busy, it's always crazy — it makes us crazy, but we love it."
The monthly sales began in 2014, when Painted Mill owner Jen Jennings-Janson opened her three-story home decor hub in a former warehouse for animal feed. The Vintage Tin Can and Farmhouse Design District opened in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and have coordinated their sale dates ever since. With all three stores open at once, Main Street bustles with shoppers and cars that spill onto Fallston's country roads while waiting for a parking spot.
Despite the congestion, friends Carly Ross and Michel Zderko say the sales are worth the drive.
"Because it's monthly, it's more appealing," Ross says. "It's good to compare and get ideas."
"We both love it," Zderko agreed.
The stores are an interior decorator's paradise and a spectacle in their own right. Rustic filament-bulb lamps sit atop reclaimed furniture. Sprigs of cotton, vines and dried flowers wind around wall fixtures and sprout from vintage milk jugs. Overhead, twinkling chandeliers of wood, chrome and crystal illuminate carefully crafted displays. Visitors to the three stores can find anything from reclaimed barn wood to old decorative magazines to weathered antler wreaths.
And then, of course, there's the furniture. Full dining room tables, elegant kitchen hutches and even a desk made from reclaimed airplane metal stand out as single pieces or prop up other unique finds.
In Farmhouse Design District, Melanie Harris, Melissa Neery and Emma Hood fawned over a rust-colored chest of drawers with crab-leg handles.
"It's gorgeous," says Hood, a Pasadena resident and tag sale first-timer. "I want everything."
There are more than 70 vendors offering vintage goods among the three stores. The sellers source from auctions, estate sales and thrift stores. Sherri Dowell, a Farmhouse Design District vendor, and her partner Kim Young snagged some pieces from a 100-year-old home in Jarrettsville and use old leather-bound books, some belonging to Dowell's late father, as accent pieces. Every piece has a story, Dowell says, and so do most of the customers.
"A lot of people will come in and say, 'I had one of these growing up!' " says Dowell, who sold one of her father's books, though it wasn't originally a ticketed item. "When someone buys something they love as much as you, you feel really good about it."
The sales have become a destination for patrons nationwide. Painted Mill vendor Jennifer Lane has helped patrons from as far away as Hawaii. Sabrina Barney, owner of the Vintage Tin Can, recalls selling to a mother from Ohio who planned visits with her family around the weekend sales. Half the fun is seeing where shoppers come from, Lane says.
"We try to keep it themed," she says of her section of the Painted Mill. "It definitely keeps people coming back."
As a child, Jim Fielder knew Sophia's Dairy as the big house he couldn't enter.
"The farm I grew up on is three miles from here," says Fielder, a Harf
Jenny Koppenhaver, co-owner of Farmhouse Design District, held its grand opening in January after her time as a vendor in the Painted Mill. Koppenhaver and her partner Sandy Schmitt are inspired by the past, she says, and look to old buildings and old movies when designing their store.
Each shop offers a different adventure. Farmhouse Design District found its home in a former station on the historic Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, which ran in Maryland until the 1950s. The store is designed to look like one "well-designed building," Koppenhaver said. Though the tracks are gone from the building, the large rooms offer carefully curated displays which effortlessly flow from room to room.
The Painted Mill, true to its name, has set up shop in the former warehouse for animal feed produced at the Reckord Mill, now called the Mill of Bel Air. The Painted Mill offers three floors of rustic nooks to explore, expertly decorated by anywhere from 40 to 60 vendors. A newly added porch and selection of trendy clothing allow shoppers to expand their search, and a hand-cranked grain elevator helps move heavier pieces from floor to floor. The store usually features a different theme for each month, says owner Jennings-Janson, and the fall and winter seasons see the most dramatic changes.
"Christmas is insane," she said. "There's no parking anywhere."
At The Vintage Tin Can, Barney, who grew up going to auctions and estate sales with her father, has put her lifelong experience with second-hand treasures to work.
"That's what our roots are," Barney said. "I look for people who actually go out and find things versus buying them."
At Barney's warehouse space, patrons can wander through a dizzying array of unique knickknacks and accent pieces, and purchase fresh produce and wildflowers.
And in the space between the three stores, there are shoppers cradling their purchases, showing off special finds and swapping strategies with one another.
"I'm always looking for something unique and interesting," says Sara Wyatt of Nottingham while waiting for a black hutch to be brought down from the upper levels of the Painted Mill.
"This is my third or fourth time here," says Wyatt, who uses the sales to get ideas for her own furniture projects. "We had to circle around twice before we could get a parking space, but it was worth the wait."