S. Dunn


Not Just Mall Rats: Local Shoppers Hit Boutiques Over Holiday Weekend

It’s not just the Targets and Best Buys that saw vigorous sales this past weekend. Local small merchants are reporting soaring success. While the official word is that sales across the country were up 16 percent from last year, some shops in Baltimore fared even better. Sassanova, a women’s shoe, clothing and accessory boutique in Harbor East did booming business. “We had about a fifty percent increase over last year,” store manager Carolyn Wagner tells us.  
Traffic at Harbor East seems to be on the rise as the downtown space gains more recognition. A sell-out at the newly opened Four Seasons — thanks to specially discounted grand opening rates — also kept the streets bustling with people, as did unseasonably warm weather, movie openings and the holiday. 
At serene Cross Keys, Ruth Shaw also reported a doubling of sales. “It didn’t start until about 2:30 in the afternoon,” said store owner Ray Mitchener of his high-end women’s clothing boutique, “but then we had a great day.”
The one-two punch of Black Friday followed by American Express Small Business Saturday seemed to help retailers pack people into the stores. Sima Blue, owner of specialty shop and women’s boutique Trillium in Green Spring Station, said she noticed heavy traffic on Friday, but her sales were bigger on Saturday.  Still, sales for the weekend were about the same as last year but, “overall we are way ahead of last year.”  
Despite the ease of online shopping, locals seem to like the instant gratification that comes with going into the stores, talking to an actual human being, and feeling and seeing the merchandise. Likely, too, they happily shop live and local out of a sense of civic responsibility. Said one Baltimore shopper who braved the crowds on Saturday and Sunday, “We make a point to shop local; we don’t go to the mall.”

Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh: We Weren’t Kidding about the Hype


Last night, the stories on the Harbaugh Bowl, or the Har-Bowl as the San Jose Mercury News calls it, started appearing all over the internet. Just in case you haven’t heard about the historic match-up (have you been in a coma?) between the two brothers, we thought we’d share our findings. As the Baltimore Sun points out, every radio show and website seems to be touching on the game between Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh, 49, and San Francisco 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, 48. But as the San Francisco Chronicle explains, this isn’t the first time the two brothers have competed against each other. There was a baseball game back when they were teenagers (John’s team won). Our favorite detail comes from the Atlanta Constitution, which had this quote from Jim: “It’s very considerate of the NFL to fly us out there,” the devilish younger brother said, “I haven’t seen him on Thanksgiving in I don’t know how many years.”

You know who we’re rooting for.

Our Gerry Sandusky and Their Jerry Sandusky: No Relation


Poor Gerry (note the “G”) Sandusky!  

While some may have assumed the WBAL sports director and Ravens radio announcer is related to accused pedophile and former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky — and it is an easy mistake given that Gerry with a G’s father was also a football coach, although in the NFL — there is no relation. He’s never even met the guy.

Our Gerry told The Sun that he has received angry messages. “What I have discovered is that there is this parallel universe of people who have the same name but no relationship to people who have committed heinous crimes,” he told The Sun. “Somewhere there is a plumber named Bernie Madoff.”

Gerry Sandusky announced to Ravens’ fans on Sunday night before the Ravens-Steelers game that he is of no relation to the accused sex-criminal Jerry Sandusky. His on-air colleagues at WBAL have made a point to add the disclaimer too.

“For years I always had to introduce myself as Gerry with a ‘G.’ My mom decided to spell my name with a ‘G.’ Thank God she did,” Sandusky told The Sun.

It’s an Honor Just to Be Nominated


Have you heard of the Mobbies? Neither had we until a friend emailed to congratulate us on being nominated in the Best City Blog and Best New Blog categories. Mobbies = the “best blog” awards given by The Baltimore Sun. Here’s the weird thing though: You can vote for yourself, and often! The rules allow one vote per person every 24 hours, but voters have to be registered at The Sun.

We’re so happy to be nominated we won’t even feel embarrassed to vote for ourselves 100 times — or ask our dear readers to do so — even if it is just a ploy to drive traffic to The Sun’s website.

Vote for us? Save us some clicks. Here’s the link:


Here are the rules:

  1. To be eligible, a voter must be a registered user of baltimoresun.com.
  2. Vote for your favorites daily. Registered users get one vote per category per 24-hour period. You can also vote once each day for the best overall blog.
  3. Rankings are updated daily. The nominee who receives the highest number of votes in each category at the end of the voting period wins. 
  4. Voting on the Mobbies finalists will started Oct. 31st at 8 a.m. and will end Nov. 10th at 5 p.m. Winners, prizes and partying commence at Illusions Magic Bar on Nov. 15th at 5:30 p.m. Details here

Please excuse our shameless self-promotion and thanks.


The Nation’s Most Expensive Private School


Private school tuition is an expensive privilege no matter the location, but some tuition bills are higher than others. This summer, we looked at tuition rates at area private schools and found that Baltimore private school tuition averages at about $23,000.

That’s a great deal compared to the nearly $40,000 price tag at the country’s most expensive private schools listed by Business Insider.  Take a peek and tell us: How much is too much?

What’s Your Make-Me-Move Price?


There’s a story going around, confirmed by real estate people in-the-know, that an executive with Pandora Jewelry, which makes charms and bracelets, rings and necklaces and other tchotkes, has paid twice the value for a house in Baltimore County’s Greenspring Valley. The house, lovely inside and out with pastoral views and lots of lush, green horse-y acreage, was owned and loved for decades by an old Baltimore family who had no intention of moving but faced an offer it could not refuse. 

So the story begs the question: How much would it take to make you move? We all grow emotionally attached to our houses, of course, but everyone has a “make me move” price. Real estate website Zillow, which lists and values properties, encourages home owners to list their “Make Me Move” price, calling it a “free and easy way to let others know what you’d sell your home for.”

In this economy, not many of us will be lucky enough to get that magic number. Even in a good economy, most of us wouldn’t be lucky enough to get that magic number, so it’s no wonder that when it does happen, it has neighbors’ tongues wagging.

Pandora Jewelry is a multi-million-dollar company headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. It employs over 5,000 people worldwide. Before its initial public offering last October, the BBJ reported the company hired Baltimore marketing company GVK to develop branding and communication strategies. Maybe the IPO windfall afforded the executive a giddy I-can-buy-whatever-I-want moment?

Tell us your Make-Me-Move price in the comments — maybe you’ll find a buyer. (We fully expect a commission, of course.)

Baltimore After the Storm


As we were living through Irene, she didn’t seem any worse than a really bad rain storm, but the morning told a different story: over 100,000 without power, hundreds of trees down, lines down and detritus strewn hither and yon.

One of the most dramatic surprises came to Peter Kaizer whose 2005 Mazda 3 narrowly escaped annihilation from an enormous oak tree that fell in the 200 block of Murdock Road in Rodgers Forge. The tree missed the car by six inches, landing just between it and another car parked immediately in front of it. 

Another felled oak took down lines across Stevenson Lane (resulting in a ball of fire the size of the house, according to one neighbor), and more trees crashed lines on York Road, Osler Drive and Bellona Avenue among other streets. All over lush Baltimore County, same occurred, helping to explain why so many county residents are without power.  

As of Sunday night, the death toll from storm-related incidents was 21, but only one of those was from Maryland. Though the damage was less than government officials warned, most Marylanders were glad for the extra caution.  

Please post your pictures on our community page and share your stories in the comments.


Stemmer House Goes Up for Auction Weds.


What a steal! We fell in love with Stemmer House when we featured it in Houstory in May. Now The Sun reports that the Owings Mills estate–complete with 27+ acres, two barns, a pool, a pond, glorious gardens and more–will go to auction in two days, August 3. Minimum bid: $1.4 million.

It’s a blessing or a curse, depending which side of the sale your on. But how can this be? Houses with a lot less acreage and features sell for a lot more around the city and county. It would be a shame to see this lovely treasure fall into the wrong hands. (Yes, it would make a lovely B&B or wedding and Bar Mitzvah venue, but really?) We’ll keep our fingers crossed that this local historic landmark goes to a true domi-phile who will give it the tender loving care it deserves. 

Stemmer House Auction

To take place on the premises: 2627 Caves Road, Owings Mills 21117

Wednesday, August 3

11:00 a.m.

$50,000 deposit required.

For more information: http://realestate.alexcooper.com/featured/

In the Eye of the Brown Paper Blogger


It’s been just a little over a year since MICA grad student and art connoisseur Sara Barnes, 25, launched Brown Paper Bag, her five-day-a-week blog through which she introduces visitors to exceptional artists, in Baltimore and beyond. Today the blog, which emphasizes works on paper, lands an impressive 10,000 unique visitors a month, providing a fresh perspective on people, trends and aesthetics in the art world, local and national. We count on its electric eclectic images–Sara’s eye is impeccable, her taste extremely diverse–to wake up a humdrum day. The Kansas City, Missouri, native, who relocated to Baltimore to pursue her BFA at MICA, will begin her MFA studies in illustration at MICA this fall, while maintaining her downtown office job. We caught up with the Seton Hill resident, to learn more about the art that excites her right now, and why, by the way, she calls her beautiful blog Brown Paper Bag.

Tell us about the name!

I decided on the name Brown Paper Bag because I had more or less intended the blog to feature works on paper (but be open for interpretation), and I thought that the brown paper bag is both ubiquitous but also had the possibility to be unique and used creatively.

Why did you start Brown Paper Bag?

I kept a personal blog for about a year, dedicating one day a week to showcasing an artist who I enjoyed. That one day of the week quickly became my favorite, and it made me more interested in writing a blog that was less personal and more about art.  At the time, I had just finished taking an HTML/CSS class at the University of Baltimore. My idea for the blog coupled with my newfound web knowledge gave me the confidence to design and write my own blog.

What is your art background?
I have my BFA in Illustration from MICA. This fall I will be returning to MICA to obtain my MFA in Illustration Practice. (The inaugural class!)

How would you define your taste/aesthetic?

That’s something I am constantly trying to figure out, and it’s always changing! I would say that currently, I am enjoying work that has some inherent joke or humor in it, or doesn’t take itself too seriously. I like work that is a little unpredictable, in both style and content, and most notably I am drawn to a hand-crafted aesthetic that favors some combination of abstraction and realism.

What is your goal with the blog now and later?

The immediate goal for my blog is to continue to make it more collaborative and Baltimore-centric. I’d like to spend the rest of this summer talking to more local artists and visiting their studios, and also working with artists not local to me (through mail art, email interviews, etc.). Later, my goal is to not only introduce my audience to new artists, but to educate them, and support local emerging artists. …I think that the MFA program I am about to enter (MFA Illustration Practice) will really foster this.

How do you find such great artists to share every weekday?

It’s a combination of clicking on the internet. Artist websites and Flickr are really what have paid off for me in the past–it is a great way to discover like-minded cohorts. Tumblr is something I’ve started using with a bit more frequency–many artists post new work this way–and Pinterest, a visual bookmarking system.

What percentage of your artists are local?

I think there are about five posts a month dedicated to Baltimore artists and events. With Baltimore artists, I like to meet the artist, which can be tricky scheduling-wise. I have a Flickr account associated with my blog that I update with Baltimore art events that I attend.

Has your blog helped anyone sell pieces or get a show?

I can’t say anyone for sure, but I do know that my blog has helped artists become noticed by sites that might be interested in selling their work, and at the very least puts them on a radar to other bloggers or galleries.  

What is the most challenging aspect of keeping a dynamic daily blog?

I second guess myself a lot. Since I am posting at least twice a day, I am constantly checking myself to make sure I am posting quality over quantity. I also receive a lot of email submissions. Because of the volume, I am often not able to read all of them until later.

Tell us about a couple of artists you’ve promoted with training and without.

An artist that I recently featured (with training) was Steven Riddle. He’s a Baltimore-based artist, got his undergrad degree at MICA, and is now getting his MFA at Towson University. I visited his studio and fell even more in love with his work after seeing his large collage pieces in person. Currently, his new works are a take on still life–flowers in vases, etc. With my art history-themed post, Time Travel Tuesday, I often promote artists without training. One such artist is the infamous Henri Rousseau, a painter working in the early early 20th century. I’ve always been in love with his jungle scenes, and like to remind readers where modern day aesthetics might sprout.

Who are you most excited about this very week?!

This very week? The week is still young, but I recently finished a project with Canadian artist, Jessica Bell. She participated in my collaborative interview, Art Together, so I am excited to talk to her about it and get her perspective on our project. She creates beautiful collaged works.

As an artist, what are you working on just now?

Lately, I’ve been interested in the idea of building a society, creating systems, and/or designing a world. Over the past year I’ve been sewing, and since the spring have been embroidering all of my pieces. Normally, I work in a combination of paper and sewing to create a layered and slightly 3D effect.

What does the blog do for your own creativity?

I see so many different images and types of art on a daily basis that it’s constantly inspiring me to create and push the envelopes of my own work. It’s amazing how quickly I can tire of a trend after seeing so many artists create work in the same vein. I think observing this is very valuable. 


Student Photographer Earns National Recognition


David Cha, a rising junior at Gilman, is going to be photo editor of the school yearbook, Cynosure, next year and, judging by the quality of the shot he took to win a top spot in the Josten’s Yearbook student photo contest, he has the chops to take on that important role and then some. Cha was just awarded fifth place in the Sports Athletes in Action category.  Photo contest winners were judged on composition, artistic merit, technical qualities and the ability to tell a compelling story.

Cha’s prize winning track photo titled “Full Speed” captures relay runner Daniel Yue at an indoor track meet. David panned with the running action during the 4×200 event.

“It took me at least 150 shots to get that one. I tried panning in every running event. I didn’t have a good telephoto. I shot it hand-held, which is why it is so hard. I ran with the person to get the pan and I ran into the fence once. It took a lot of attempts. It is really, really hard to pan when the person is moving everything. I got really lucky on that one,” says David.

Cha shot the photo using a Canon 60 D SLR, Tamron 17 to 50 mm 2.8 lens with vibration control, using a slow shutter speed of 1/30 sec. ISO 100. We won’t forget the cool image and we’ll keep his name on file!