Proprietor: Maureen Gold, Manager of Ruth Shaw
Since it opened in 1973, Ruth Shaw has carried a variety of clothing and accessories brands selected with Baltimore’s most fashionable women in mind. Owner Ray Mitchener, who first joined the shop as a buyer in 1977, is known for his discerning eye and understanding of what makes the shopping experience enjoyable and exciting.
Over the past four decades, the shop has remained a go-to for Baltimore women looking for luxury brands. Here, Ruth Shaw’s manager and buyer Maureen Gold dishes on her experiences at Ruth Shaw – first as a customer, then as a buyer – and what is exciting in the store right now.
How did you get started at Ruth Shaw?
My story goes back many years. I used to be a customer – on the other side. I felt like this was the only place to shop in my late 20s and 30s. It was my go-to. I developed a relationship with Ray and his staff. Ray and I had a friendship for many years and he always tried to get me to come work for him.
I had a young family at that time and it didn’t work out. When my daughter went off to school, I had a conversation with him about coming in. So instead of just being a buyer on a personal level, I came aboard as his manager, to bring a fresh perspective. That was eight years ago.
I always knew this was the place I could find great clothes and great advice. I liked that and wanted to help facilitate that in the community.
What is your favorite thing in the shop right now? And the most popular?
I am the accessories buyer, so that’s truly where my first love lies. I fought hard to bring in this line by Aurelie Bidermann. She’s a 39-year-old French jewelry designer who loves nature and layering her jewelry. She wears sleeves of bangles, all mixed and they work well together. Her turquoise and golds have such a natural, easy feel. That’s my love right now – beautiful, well-designed and well-priced (even though it’s French!).
As far as popularity goes, I think people come to us because what we carry is so different. They know when they come in, they find something they won’t find anywhere else locally. We pride ourselves in finding things you just don’t find everywhere, like waffle weave fedoras for fall/winter – they just flew out of here – and fox pom-pom skull caps in great colors.
My favorite thing is that we work really hard at finding cool sweaters. It surprises me every year – they always fly out before the cool weather even hits.
What is your go-to holiday gift recommendation?
I have a lot of husbands who know their wives shop here. If I can get an idea of what the woman wants ahead of time, she can be sure to find it under her tree. But if I don’t have a heads-up, I sell jewelry. Every woman loves a piece of jewelry at Christmas – finding something in a little box! Whether it’s diamonds or a sleeve of bangles, it says they put some thought into it.
What style icon or celebrity could you imagine shopping at Ruth Shaw?
The first person who comes to mind is Michelle Williams. She always looks appropriately chic. She never misses. She definitely has an edited style and always just hits the mark, whether it’s the length of her skirt or the height of her shoe.
You can tell somebody who has a clean vision of the way they want to be represented in their clothing. I think that’s what we do best here. We go to the showrooms and edit down, so the collection is understandable and timeless.
What’s new and exciting at Ruth Shaw? Any trends for this fall and winter?
Something that’s surprising me is the love of the flat. Women are going more in the direction of comfort – it’s trending, which cracks me up. Every woman has a slip-on sneaker. That came out of nowhere for me and became one of my favorite surprise trends. You can put on a leather sneaker with anything in your closet and make it look cool.
Ruth Shaw is located at 68 Village Square in the Village of Cross Keys in Baltimore. For more information, visit www.ruthshawinc.com or call 410-537-7668.
Proprietor: Betsy B. Wendell of Octavia II
Since 1965, family-owned Octavia II has been dressing the women of Baltimore in fashions that are both sophisticated and distinguished. Run by Betsy Wendell, the granddaughter-in-law of the boutique’s founder, Octavia II has earned a reputation as a go-to stop for women with impeccable taste, who appreciate top-notch service.
In addition to having a great eye, Wendell is a strong advocate for Baltimore’s local fashion retail community. “If you don’t support the local stores, you can’t expect to get the best designers or looks,” she says. “If you buy online or while on vacation and don’t support the locals, slowly, the availability will dry up. My best customers have always told me, ‘We made it in Baltimore, we are going to spend it in Baltimore.’”
Here, Wendell dishes on the story behind Octavia II and what’s hot in the store this season:
How did you get started at Octavia II?
Octavia is a family business opened by my grandmother-in-law, Octavia Dugan. Octavia was friends with Jim Rouse, who asked her if she’d like to open a store in this thing called a “mall.”
My career in fashion was far less creative in its infancy. Pageants and modeling shoots – I was wearing the clothes, not designing and selling them. Eventually, I found my niche buying the clothes from around the world, hand-picking designs and colors just for my clients – dressing some of Baltimore’s (and beyond’s) most elite fashionistas.
What is your favorite thing in the shop right now?
My favorite items in the shop right now have got to be our incredible selection of jewelry from Gay Boyer, now called Boyer New York. Our “Pebbles and Bam Bam” necklace would make even Barbara Bush proud! Magnetic closures on the necklaces make it so even with our “old eyes,” we can wear fashionable pieces.
What is your go-to holiday gift recommendation?
The best holiday gift is our reversible fur trim rain jacket. It reverses to rainwear and is great for travel. It’s affordable at $1,095. It’s two coats in one and light as a feather.
For something easier on the wallet, I love our Thymes Reed Diffusers in the Frasier Fir scent, which are $65 for the liquid scent bottle, decorative container and reeds. It will last more than just this year and is a favorite gift among our customers – and the proprietors!
What style icon or celebrity could you imagine shopping at Octavia II?
There have been many – but we would never kiss and tell at Octavia! One day, maybe I will write a book…and hopefully my fellow Cross Keys proprietors will contribute their own chapters.
Octavia originally opened her doors to “spread the word of the Lord.” Everyone is a celebrity in that scenario!
What’s new and exciting at Octavia II? Any trends for this fall and winter?
The best trend right now is color, color and more color. Ponchos are ruling the runways of our shows and skinny leggings from Lysse and Not Your Daughters Jeans have the market covered this year. Everyone is buying into it. It has taken decades for the skinny pant to return and I’m planning on it staying for a while. Get on the wagon.
Octavia II is located at 94 Village Square in the Village at Cross Keys in Baltimore. For more information, visit the Octavia II Facebook page or call 410-323-3066.