Yes, Virginia, there still is a place where you can buy gifts for less than $10 at The Mall in Columbia.
Problem is, you have to be under 10 years old.
"Fun. Very fun. And I could pay!"
That was the response of 4-year-old Ashley Glover of King's Contrivance village after she finished buying presents for "Daddy, Mommy and Sammy (Samantha, her baby sitter)" at the mall's Secret Store.
The store runs from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, and only admits children (I was close enough) ages 4 to 10.
Being a hard-nosed reporter with no qualms about publishing sensitive information, I asked the young shopper what she purchased for her father.
"You're not supposed to tell, said her mother, Lynn Glover.
No matter. The best Ashley could do was "something for daddy in a little box."
How about that. Those Rouse Co. psycho-analytic marketing whizzes have found a way to embed the shopping-for-its-own-sake mentality in humans at the most impressionable age.
Actually it's not as sinister as we cynics would like to believe.
"I used to shop in a little shop in a department store in downtown Pittsburgh as a little girl," explained Danielle Morgenthaler, the mall's manager of sales and marketing.
"My mother used to take me there and I've always wanted to do this," she said.
Now that she's gone and done it, mall patrons have actually found the mall office (no easy task, I assure you) to compliment her on it.
Meanwhile, 5-foot-2 Cathy LeBlanc, dressed in an elf costume, directs a small group of tiny shoppers around a half-dozen displays of low-cost merchandise from several mall stores.
For the original, there is the suction-cup --board clipboard. For the not-so-original, an assortment of "men's gifts," including pencil sharpeners and the (yes, it's still here) soap-on-a-rope.
The "women's gifts" are not quite so diverse, most of them in the soap, perfume and potpourri pillow category.
And there's even several children's tables so the little tykes can buy gifts for their friends, with a selection ranging from traditional cuddly teddy bears to those annoying clacking-plastic-ball noisemakers.
So if you're intoxicated with the holiday spirit but are worried about the recession, pack up the little ones and take them down to the Secret Store. (If you're really broke, you can sneak an extra gift list in with them so they can do all of your holiday shopping.) SOURCE: Erik Nelson
TOOHEY LEAVES COUNTY WITH SMILE ON HIS FACE
When Bill Toohey thinks of Howard County, chances are he'll have a smile on his face.
"I enjoyed it a lot; I've been telling people my two months here was really like a summer romance," said Toohey of his two-month stint as the county's director of public information.
On Monday, he returned to his former position as director of public affairs for the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development.
Toohey, who in 1989 was named "Best Flack in Baltimore" by the City Paper, said he decided to leave his $49,166-a-year county job for two reasons.
The Baltimore housing office indicated an interest in having him return, and the change of regime in the county government left him uncertain about the security of his job.
"Mr. (Charles I.) Ecker was not in a position to make me a commitment," Toohey said. "I decided with three kids, ages 6, 8 and 10, to go for the more secure route."
Despite his short tenure here, Toohey did not leave without forming some impressions of the county.
"I am very impressed by the skills of the county government workers," he said. "It's really a top-notch group of people.
"And I've been very, very strongly impressed with county residents' strong sense of attachment and involvement in the county, whether it be the farmers in the west or the folks in the Elkridge and Columbia areas," he said.
SOURCE: Jackie Powder