Thursday, July 31, 2014

Frederick Faces: Michele Patton and Lisa Henry

Michele and Lisa

Michele Patton and her sister Lisa had always talked about opening a home-oriented store together, but their dream became a reality in May 2008 when the pair opened Home Essentials of Frederick (38 E. Patrick Street). As Michele and Lisa both settled down from various retail careers and living all over the country, the sisters decided to pursue their interest in home-goods and their lifelong dream of opening a business together. Michele explains, “The timing was right, the place was right (Frederick!), and here we are!”

Home Essentials of Frederick is a unique gift store where customers can pick up items from a variety of categories, including home, garden, glassware and kitchen serveware, baby, jewelry, and pet. Many customers shop for both gifts to give and items for their own home. 

When asked about their favorite aspect of their job and working in Downtown Frederick, their answers were one and the same. Michele and Lisa love the variety of their jobs and atmosphere that comes along with having their business in downtown Frederick. “The downtown community is so supportive of our shop…we love visiting with everyone that stops by,” says Lisa. Michele agreed, stating, “We looked several places but loved how downtown feels…. great music, great restaurants, great shops, and a strong local community…..all interested in keeping Frederick low key but vibrant at the same time.” Michele also added, “And we have LOTS of dog visitors… which is so entertaining!” 

It’s not surprising that visitors of the four-legged variety are one of Michele’s favorite aspects of the job; both she and Lisa are strong dog rescue supporters. Lisa has three rescue dogs while Michele has two, with the addition of Stella occurring in just the past month. In addition to their devotion to their business and their dogs, Michelle and Lisa love spending time gardening and gathering with their family. Luckily, they have the opportunity to enjoy them all!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Frederick Faces: Whitney Bingham

Whitney Bingham dabbled in many different aspects of art and business before opening The Muse (19 N. Market Street) in 2003. Growing up, the natural artist spent time sewing and doing other crafts, and she eventually attended an art-focused high school to develop her skills. Whitney then received a degree in psychology with a minor in art from the University of Pittsburgh, leading to her post-graduation career in retail management and merchandising. Throughout her journey through the education system and working for various big-box retailers, Whitney continued creating her own pieces and furthered her love for art, giving her the inspiration and confidence to open her store in Downtown Frederick.

The Muse sells handmade American gifts to the unique Frederick crowd. Most of the pieces they carry are both functional and artistic so that “people can enjoy art in their daily lives and routines.” Whitney shared some of the creative pieces her artists have come up with, such as candle holders made of tractor metal and wallets made of vintage books, explaining, “Creative minds never run out of ideas.” 

Though Whitney loves being surrounded by art on a daily basis, the relationships she has developed with the artists through her business are what truly inspire her. ”I feel so happy and excited when I work with a new artist and their work takes off.  I have watched many of them grow and expand their businesses and it makes me feel really good,” she said. 

When Whitney isn’t scouting new artists or managing her store, you can find her creating her own art. “I have tried many different mediums and enjoy them all but stitching and sewing is where my heart is,” she divulges. Whitney’s talent and dedication are apparent, as she has been juried in two national quilt shows and the Delaplaine’s annual regional juried exhibit. Outside of her work and art, Whitney loves reading and spending time with her fiancĂ©, Nick. 

When asked for something the average person may not know about her, Whitney revealed, “I am a ketchup and mustard connoisseur! Don't even think of serving me eggs unless you have a full bottle of ketchup on the table.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Frederick Faces: Jean Frank

Ever since she was a little girl, Jean Frank, Gift Gallery Manager at The Delaplaine Arts Center (40 S. Carroll Street), knew she wanted to be involved in art in as many ways as possible. The Maryland native began her career in the arts right after high school as a photographer. After working for 8 years and being featured in several exhibits, Jean decided to take up framing as well, which led to the opening of an art and framing shop in Mt. Airy, Maryland. Through her photography and framing career, Jean became well-acquainted with many local artists, who she continued to support when she began working at The Delaplaine Arts Center in 2000. 

The Delaplaine was established in 1986 as a non-profit dedicated to visual arts and has since developed into a social and tourist attraction in the City of Frederick.  In addition to its galleries, the Delaplaine has a gift shop that offers fine art and handcrafted gift items by local artists for visitors to purchase. “It’s a wonderful opportunity and a good exchange of support,” Jean says about their bimonthly Featured Artist gallery. 

Much like many other downtown merchants, Jean’s favorite thing about her job is the people and atmosphere associated with Frederick. With over 200 artists on display, the Delaplaine’s collection brings in both local art enthusiasts as well as tourists seeing what Frederick has to offer, and Jean enjoys meeting and connecting with people who share her and the artists’ passion. Jean also loves that she has the opportunity to work with art in Downtown Frederick. ”The downtown area is vibrant with so much to see and do. There is a good vibe, with good food, good people, and good art!”

Jean’s interest in art is apparent in her personal life in addition to her professional one. As a member of the Frederick County Art Association for the past 20 years and a frequent participant in the Barnstormers and the Box Show at The Artists Gallery, Jean has supported artistic growth and exposure in the area as well as worked on her own artistic creations. “I work in pastel, drawing on black paper is my favorite, but it is very messy. I also like working in acrylic when I get the time.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Frederick Faces: Neil Gager

Originally from South Africa, Neil Gager, owner of Exotic Lumber Inc. (329 E. 2nd Street), now takes pride in calling Downtown Frederick his home. Neil began his working career in the marketing department of a large plastics company in South Africa. Throughout his experience in the corporate environment with all of the “rules, politics, and meetings,” Neil dreamt of owning his own small company. Twelve years ago, Neil moved to the US with his wife and two young daughters to pursue this dream. 

Exotic Lumber Inc. imports and stocks over 100 species of exotic and domestic lumber to be used in various projects or sold to woodworking companies. Neil genuinely enjoys the nature of his business and the product he handles, stating “It is a very exciting and rewarding business – selling an organic, raw material that is eventually transformed into beautiful furniture or objects.” In addition to taking pleasure in providing his customers with high quality, unique wood, Neil loves the connections he makes through his business. In fact, he claims that the most interesting aspect of his business is “the incredible cross-section of customers that we deal with on a daily basis,” adding “without our customers we are nothing.” 

Neil first opened shop in Gaithersburg, MD, but fell in love with Frederick while searching for a warehouse location. “We discovered unique, interesting, creative, and friendly people, who welcomed and supported the idea of a lumberyard in their midst,” he says. “And the networking here is invaluable.”

Though running his own business and caring for his family are the priorities in Neil’s life, he still finds time to run and play golf. He is a member of the Frederick Steeplechasers’ Running Club, as well as participates in the Frederick Half Marathon and the Rescue Mission 1o Miler. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Frederick Faces: Meline Baron

Meline Baron, owner of VISIONS (16 N. Market Street), describes her position as business owner and optician as “the perfect career for [her].” However, it wasn’t a straight path getting to where she is today.

The Rochester, New York native started her working career as a saleswoman for XEROX, though she claims she “never wore a blue suit” during her days of selling printers and copiers. Her career as an optician began in 1996 when she met her current VISIONS partner and significant other, Phil Bromwell. 

Meline and Phil spent the first few years of their relationship managing a friend’s optical boutique in Baltimore. When the couple opened their Frederick shop in 1999, Meline was able to combine her lifelong interest in art and design with her career as an optician.  

“VISIONS is a combination of the best of function, fit, fashion, and fun,” Meline explains, though she admits, ”the frame fashions and artistic environment may be what catches peoples’ eye and brings them in the door at first, but it’s the time we take engaging our customers, and, most important, our expertise that keeps them coming back.”

Meline loves creating pieces of “living art” by helping people find the frames that best fit their face and optical needs. But, her true inspiration comes from “making happy faces,” which occur when her customers see themselves in a new way when they get their first pair of glasses. Meline shared a heartwarming story about dispensing a pair of progressive lenses to a customer from Kazakhstan during his annual visit to the US. She recalls, “When he put on the new glasses he was so happy to be able to see and read clearly that he wanted to read anything we had in the store, even though it meant struggling with the English!”