Linda Sue Sarubin, a passionate antiques dealer and ‘the ultimate shop girl,’ dies

Linda Sue Sarubin sold buttons, tools, doors, shutters, toys, books, Bakelite jewelry and more.

Linda Sue Sarubin, an antiques dealer who designed her shops as artful settings for her 19th century buttons and other wares, died Oct. 12 of complications from a liver condition at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. She was 68 and lived in Gatchellville, Pennsylvania.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Clarks Lane, she was the daughter of Milton Sarubin, an Ellicott City pharmacist, and Molly Vigran, who worked with him and also had a jewelry business.


Ms. Sarubin was a 1972 graduate of Western High School and earned a fine arts degree at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied weaving.

“She was an excellent writer and could have made a career of it. She could describe the world in great detail,” said her sister, Jessica Burdine.


Family members said Ms. Sarubin was fascinated by antiques; her mother was an antiques dealer who specialized in vintage jewelry.

“She spent time with my mother in a store she owned on Howard Street and later on Fleet Street off Broadway,” her sister said. “She started out at yard sales and later went to estate sales, where the inventory was a little more refined.”

In the 1970s, Ms. Sarubin moved to San Francisco.

“She went there initially to visit friends and was captivated by the city,” her sister said. “She just fit in there and worked at a home design store.”

After returning to Baltimore, Ms. Sarubin opened a shop she named Circa, at Tyson and Read streets. Her business was housed in an early 19th century building in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. She sold antique buttons, Bakelite jewelry, and vintage Christmas cards and ornaments.

“Her genius for display helped people visualize the world these items came from,” said her sister. “She had a big personality and was good at pulling people into her creative world.”

Ms. Sarubin purchased the extensive button inventory of the old Morton Schenk Co. on West Baltimore Street. She owned a large and diverse button collection.

She collected 1930s bracelets made of Bakelite, a synthetic resin, and often wore six or eight in vivid colors on her arm.


She met her future husband, Carroll Swam, at an auction in Westminster.

“She was looking at old photos, and I asked her if I could have a look too,” he said.

Friend and customer Donna Beth Joy Shapiro said: “She was the ultimate shop girl, as she called herself. She was a master of marketing and display and quite the magpie in her jewelry designs. She employed precious bits and bobs and produced breathtaking necklaces.”

Ms. Shapiro also said, “I remember Linda for her megawatt smile, accentuated by her trademark red lips; her vivaciousness and hilariousness; her kindness and generosity ... and her unfailing willingness to wade into the fray.”

Ms. Sarubin and her husband had operated the Gatchellville Store in southern York County, Pennsylvania, since 2002. In later years, she established a larger customer base through online sales.


A 2004 Sun story described her shop: “Inside the store on New Park Road are country furnishings and vintage musical instruments — 19th century parlor guitars, guitars by Gibson and Martin, mandolins and banjos.”

She also sold her buttons, tools, doors, shutters, toys, books and Bakelite.

The Morning Sun

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“The Gatchellville Store is a new kind of old store,” the story said. “The peeling paint will remain, and the windows will be decorated at Christmastime like they were years ago.”

She and her husband were the fourth owners of the old general store.

“They won’t polish or paint. The store is like it was when it closed in the late 1940s,” the story said. “It is filled with relics from the past — such as the Victorian perfume buttons with velvet inserts, which were used to hold fragrance.”

“I never wanted to be in the country — ever,” Ms. Sarubin said in the story. “When we got out of the car, walked up on the front porch and looked in the front door, you couldn’t help but say, `Oh, my gosh.’ ... It was like coming home. It was like going back in time.”


She was a devotee of the American Visionary Art Museum and of artist Betty Cooke’s designs at The Store LTD.

In addition to her husband of 20 years, a former Baltimore County schoolteacher, survivors include her sister, Jessica Burdine of Southampton, New York; two stepsons, Christopher B. Swam of Westminster and Jason Swam of Fernandina Beach, Florida; and a stepdaughter, Carrie Swam DeLuca of Weehawken, New Jersey.

Services are private at the convenience of the family.