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Frances Boone Chittenden, entrepreneur with a flair for design, dies

Frances Boone Chittenden founded Can Can, a custom wastepaper basket enterprise. She purchased oval-shaped baskets and covered them with emblems of private schools, colleges and universities.
Frances Boone Chittenden founded Can Can, a custom wastepaper basket enterprise. She purchased oval-shaped baskets and covered them with emblems of private schools, colleges and universities.

Frances Boone Chittenden, a home décor entrepreneur who founded a business making custom wastepaper baskets featuring local schools and sports and later had a shop in Mount Washington, died of heart failure Sunday at Stella Maris Hospice. She was 90 and lived in Roland Park.

Born Frances Albert Hopkinson Smith and raised in Long Green Valley and in Roland Park, she was the daughter of Marshall Albert Smith, a stock broker and horse fancier, and his wife, Mary Armour Jenkins, a homemaker active in the Roman Catholic Church.

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She was a 1949 Seton High School graduate. After attending a secretarial school, she joined the FBI as a secretary stenographer. Family members said she worked with Special Agent Jim Sullivan in the Baltimore Office.

“She was a stylish, inspired spitfire who lived life to the fullest,” said her son, John Carroll “Jake” Boone II, a Baltimore resident.

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Friends said that Mrs. Chittenden bored easily and liked to have a project in the works.

In the 1960s, she founded her own business, a custom wastepaper basket enterprise she named Can Can. She purchased oval-shaped baskets and covered them with emblems of private schools, colleges and universities.

She worked from her home on Falls Road Terrace and often incorporated the purchaser’s initials. She worked with leather, felt and grosgrain ribbon to trim the baskets.

“Fran had a wonderful creative side to her and she had a flair for merchandising. I could always count on her excellent taste. She never pushed for sales. She let her customers come to her — and they did,” said Welby Loane, a friend.

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“Jake” Boone said his father would make the deliveries in a MG sports car.

“It was an unlikely business but it took off,” he added.

Friends said Mrs. Chittenden, who liked sports and played competitive tennis at the Roland Run Club, caught the enthusiasm of the Orioles win in the 1966 World Series.

“I still have one of her treasures, a waste can from the 1983 Orioles World Series,” said Andy deMuth, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley . “Fran‘s voice was easily recognizable. It was a wonderful husky voice. She was always trying to figure out what was the best place for her to be — and what was best for her family. She was a strong woman and made up her own mind.”

Another son, William McGregor Boone of Ruxton, said: “She was the most comforting mom ever. She was always there for me when I needed her.”

She watched the beginnings of a transition in Mount Washington Village, near the Kelly Avenue Bridge, in the 1970s. She observed that longtime stores were closing and that she could rent a vacant shop and have her own retail business.

“She liked to be busy,” said her daughter, Mary Boone Hutson of Hydes. “She wanted to stick her nose out there and it was something to do. She liked her work. She had a lot of fun with that. It was a consignment shop and people would bring their things, hand-crafted items that people wanted to sell or furniture that people had painted. She was good at displaying things well.

“When you thought there wasn’t any more wallspace, she found a spot,” her daughter said. “She enjoyed decorating.”

Her business was called The Corner Store where she sold home accents and local artwork.

Carolyn Wingate, a friend, said: “Fran had impeccable taste and instinctively knew what her customers wanted. She also had a lot of energy and never stopped working.”

Mrs. Chittenden continued to play tennis doubles into her 80s.

Her husband of 18 years, John Henry Chittenden, a retired Bethlehem Steel Shipyard supervisor, died in 2005.

Mrs. Chittenden had been married for 26 years to John Carroll Boone, an IBM salesperson and All-American lacrosse player. He died in 1982.

A funeral Mass will be offered Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church on Smith Avenue in Mount Washington.

Survivors include two sons, John Carroll “Jake” Boone II of Baltimore and William McGregor Boone of Ruxton; a daughter, Mary Boone Hutson of Hydes; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Survivors also include two stepdaughters, Molly Helfet of New York City and Lucy Carroll Chittenden of Baltimore.

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