Attention Baltimoreans! Gearing up for holiday shopping but tired of supporting behemoth corporations? When you shop at independent stores with local makers, your money stays in the city you love. Made in Baltimore is proud to share this series spotlighting some of the Baltimore City’s most local-supporting retailers, created by our 2019 intern, Jacob Took.
This month, the Maryland Historical Society opened Spectrum of Fashion, an exhibition presenting four centuries of garments and textiles from the museum’s Fashion Archives — from outfits owned by royalty to livery worn by once-enslaved individuals. The exhibition also spotlights Maryland designers past and present, including dresses by Christian Siriano and Baltimore’s own Bishme Cromartie.
Leila Warshaw manages the Museum Store, a Made in Baltimore-certified retailer. A treasure trove of local handmade products line the shelves of the Store, including plenty of Made in Baltimore makers — Pure Chocolate by Jinji, 228 Street Candle Co. or Urban Roots handmade seed bombs, to name a few.
She connected her work supporting local businesses in the Store to Maryland Historical Society’s mission — to educate people about the state’s rich history and culture. Maryland, as both a colony and a state, has been around for nearly four hundred years — and indigenous peoples even longer. That is centuries of people building societies and businesses and contributing to growing industries and economies, Leila said.
“But history is not exclusive to what happened one hundred or three hundred years ago. History is also about what is happening now. Current business owners are contributing now to what will be part of our state’s economic history, and makers and artists are contributing to our cultural history,” she said. “In order to represent all of Maryland’s history and culture in the Museum Store, I need to include work from contemporary, local makers and artists, and to support local businesses.”
It’s a plus, she added, to find products from local businesses that connect to the museum’s exhibitions. To prepare for Spectrum of Fashion, she tapped into the Made in Baltimore network to search for jewelry and accessories like scarves and bags by local makers.
“There’s a sense of adding value and supporting your own community when you shop locally,” she said. “When you buy at a local store or support a local business, you are participating in the progress and growth of your society. It’s what’s important — it’s part of what makes a good citizen.”
She said it’s been a pleasure to meet a range of local makers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Their personalities and passions often come through in their products, Leila added, and making personal connections with business owners makes the products more meaningful. She also wants to their desire to contribute to society.
Entrepreneurs are often people who have found there’s something missing in their industry or field. Maybe a certain demand wasn’t being met, or there wasn’t sufficient representation of a type of product or a certain customer demographic,” she said. “Local makers and businesses often fill a void and, in turn, add to the progress of society.”
Leila keeps Made in Baltimore member Pure Chocolates by Jinji at the register — not just because they’re a great gift add-on, but because she wants to spotlight delicious, all-natural vegan chocolate hand-made by a member of the community rather than just any chocolate.
Retailers can also do a lot to boost the platform of small businesses that are often a one-person operation, with one individual responsible for everything — researching and buying materials, designing, creating, merchandising, marketing, sales, and even accounting. Leila seeks to offer critical resources to the small businesses whose products she stocks.
“Retailers can help ease some of those stressors,” she said. “When retailers bring in new business, they begin to take on some of the responsibility of promoting and marketing those products. They can give feedback to the maker on what sells best, which may dictate the maker’s next production run. Retailers often host workshops or special events highlighting a particular maker. There is a symbiotic relationship there.”
The Museum Store, as well as the Made in Baltimore pop-up shop and other member retailers, can help artists and makers overcome barriers caused by limited space in the city. Just having a space to retail a product, Leila said, can help develop small businesses in the early stages of growth.
Made in Baltimore, she added, fosters partnerships and brings small business owners together to help one another and share resources. As a retailer, she said that Made in Baltimore connects her with more diverse products from a wider range of local businesses.
“Made in Baltimore acts as the link between the maker and the retailer, which is great. I love that opportunity,” she said. “If I can be on the ground level support businesses as well, that adds to the museum and the institution as a whole being a valuable community member.”
Leila said that she was glad to have the opportunity to support small businesses in Baltimore, a city which she said has a supportive community for makers and entrepreneurs.
“The people who live in Baltimore are kind of wonderful — and they get stuff done,” she said. “It’s the local organizations, the people and the communities who make the changes and support one another.”
Visit Maryland Historical Society at 201 W. Monument Street or online at mdhs.org.
To enjoy the benefits of a Made in Baltimore retailer membership, a store is required to stock three (3) Made in Baltimore-certified brands (though many carry more). Membership includes networking, business development opportunities, educational workshops and dedicated marketing campaigns. Interested? Sign up today: https://madeinbaltimore.org/become-a-member/