Seniors' venture turns artworks into profits Gallery sells handmade wares

January 27, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Question: How do you turn a one-time investment of $200 into an annual return of $1,000 or more?

Answer: Give it to some senior volunteers who want to open a craft shop, then get out of the way.

That's what Baltimore County's Department of Aging did in 1986, when it outfitted a trailer in Cockeysville and let the seniors set up shop. Since then, the Senior Craft Sales Gallery has moved into a room at the Loch Raven Senior Center, 1801 Glen Keith Blvd., one block east of Loch Raven Boulevard.

The shop offers consignment items ranging from a $1.25 Valentine refrigerator magnet to a handcrafted cedar chest for $375. More than 500 county seniors send their wares to the shop.

"It keeps the senior consignees busy doing something useful, and gives them a little extra money," said gallery manager Edith Mosbacher, who has been with the operation from its beginning.

"It also does us volunteers a world of good," she said.

Dorothy Tarpley, a former county school teacher who volunteers at the gallery, said, "We feel we're doing something special.

"We also have a nice social group here, and that does something for us," she said.

Most of the gallery's profits are used to support an art program for seniors, said Carol Leinhard, the department's head of Program and Volunteer Services.

"We asked the gallery board for support in the arts program and the board pledged $1,000 to it for things like art supplies and wood-carving kits," Ms. Leinhard said.

The gallery also used its profits to buy an ad and pay for a booth at the Senior Expo in October.

Business is steady at the shop, where the shelves are loaded with stained-glass lamps, crocheted sweaters, wood carvings, dolls and toys.

"We screen the items for quality, but we rarely have to reject one," said gallery treasurer Edith DeMarco. "These senior citizens made these things and didn't know what to do with them.

"The gallery is the answer to this problem," she said.

Consignees set a price on each item and the gallery adds 25 percent for its profit.

Last year's gross revenues were about $16,000, and the gallery paid out more than $13,000 to consignees.

The gallery also pays all its expenses.

"We encourage all our operations to be independent," said Ms. Leinhard, who oversees the gallery.

The gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Any Baltimore County resident age 55 or older can bring in items to sell on consignment.

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