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Shop local in Howard County to find something special during holiday season

How does one find the perfect unique gift this holiday season amid the coronavirus pandemic and all its restrictions?

Look no further than Howard County, where organizations and local businesses have worked hard to offer shoppers special holiday items whether through visiting their businesses online or in person.

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Robin Holliday, owner of HorseSpirit Arts Gallery in Historic Savage Mill, challenged her gallery artists to create an original work of art for $400 and less to be included in the gallery’s Artful Gifts show which is featured through Dec. 31.

“We have items from $14 for pottery to up to $400,” Holliday said. “All of the artists live within 30 miles. It is amazing how many very good local artists there are. I hope people find something they can put in their house and be able to enjoy.”

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Sales have been slow since November, Holliday said.

"Three-Bees," a hand-painted ceramic plate by artist Bonnie Zuckerman, was created for the Artful Gifts show at HorseSpirit Arts Gallery.
"Three-Bees," a hand-painted ceramic plate by artist Bonnie Zuckerman, was created for the Artful Gifts show at HorseSpirit Arts Gallery. (Courtesy photo/Horsespirit Arts / HANDOUT)

“We’re hanging in there by our fingernails,” Holliday said. “It has been a slow holiday season, but I do believe it will get better.”

Items are featured online though there are even more pieces available in the gallery, Holliday said, which is open to the public Thursday through Sunday.

For those looking to be creative or know someone who is creative, Carroll Baldwin Hall is selling the remnants of its original 99-year-old flooring.

“One thing we want to make clear to people, it’s not good for flooring anymore,” said Nora Broadwater, the hall’s manager, of the heart pine wood planks and buckets of nails available. “They are worn quite a bit. When removed, it was not super careful with the tongue and groove.”

The wood pieces, which are 4 to 10 feet long, and around ¾ inches thick x 2½ inches wide, are ideal for crafts, including picture frames, cutting boards or butcher block tables.

“So many people have had significant family events there, a wedding or a birthday,” Broadwater said. “There is a lot of sentiment with the hall. It has more meaning than many community buildings.”

There is also plenty of wood and nails still available for those interested. As it is being stored in a community member’s garage, interested parties should call Broadwater at 410-294-3561 or email her at manager@carrollbaldwinhall.org to make an appointment.

The original floor boards and nails from Carroll Baldwin Hall are for sale.
The original floor boards and nails from Carroll Baldwin Hall are for sale. (Courtesy photo / HANDOUT)

While the doors to both the Laurel History Museum and the Montpelier Historic Site have been closed since March, each organization has been doing its best to host events, from the Historical Society’s Virtual McCeney March to Montpelier’s virtual holiday Garlands & Green tour and online festivals. Both places have also worked hard to increase their online presence.

“We spent extra time doing a gift guide for our products,” said Ann Bennett, executive director of the Laurel Historical Society. “It features our new things and also features our ornaments and gives more information.”

Traditionally, the society designs a new ornament each year. This year, due to costs, the society decided not to design a new ornament, though the 2020 ornament featuring the city’s 150th anniversary logo, as well as past years’ ornaments, including ones that feature the now-closed Meat Market on Main Street and the Laurel Christmas tree, are available.

Several new products are now offered online, too, including a pillow, compact and face mask that all feature a vintage roadmap of the city of Laurel. Two new face masks also now available include one featuring a photo of Laurel’s Main Street from a popular vintage postcard and another featuring the Maryland flag with “Laurel, Md, est. 1870″ on it.

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“This is the first time we have done something like this for the holidays … supplement the online store,” Bennett said. “Some of the new products are more modern, more exciting. People have a use for them.”

Online sales have been good, and Bennett believes the vintage-themed items will likely sell out, with back orders possible. All products will be shipped, as the museum is not set-up for curbside pickup, Bennett said. Proceeds support the museum and its programs.

“We usually get quite a few sales through the holiday season in the museum. Our holiday open house we could count on for sales,”

Bennett said. “We’re trying to do something to stay connected and meet the needs of the community.”

Laurel Historical Society has a variety of new gifts online including this pillow with a vintage road map.
Laurel Historical Society has a variety of new gifts online including this pillow with a vintage road map. (Courtesy photo / HANDOUT)

At Montpelier Historic Site, an Artists’ Boutique has been set-up in the center passage of the mansion during the holiday season for years, and the staff wanted to keep the tradition going, according to Holly Burnham, historian and museum educator at the site.

“I invited artists to be sponsors of our newsletter for purposes of a booth and we would provide a link to their business in the newsletter,” Burnham said. “We had seven artists respond and one musician respond. All have either participated in the Artists’ Boutique before or at Festival of Herbs, Tea and the Arts.”

Lynette Muller, of Designed Dyrt, has participated in the museum’s Herb, Tea and Art Festival for three or four years.

“It has improved year after year,” said Muller, who creates and sells pottery, of the festival. “It is always well attended.”

She decided to participate in the Artists’ Boutique with hopes of reaching those customers she met at the festival over the years.

“This is something a lot of businesses need to focus on. It may be the only way to have an event,” said Muller, who has participated in five virtual shows counting the Artists’ Boutique. She is hopeful sales will improve.

“Pottery is something people like to see and touch,” Muller said. “No matter how well you photograph everything, there is nothing like seeing in it in person.”

Montpelier’s gift store, featuring books, mugs, tea accouterments and more, is open via its website and through phone calls, Burhan said. Sales have been slow, she said.

“We have several teas and the Artists’ Boutique and usually sales are pretty good in December,” Burnham said, of past years. “The gift store is open, but people have to call the office to get prices on things.”

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