Shopping Fever at Savage Mill


May 22, 1994|By KEVIN THOMAS

Let me say right from the start that I am not one of those men who hate to shop.

Having been raised by a mother who could spend eight hours at the mall looking for a house coat, shopping is in my blood. Even when I've tried to escape, the thought of browsing among indoor plants and water fountains has lured me back like a bad addiction.

And I don't have to buy anything. That chime that goes off in department stores is my mantra. A blue-light special at Kmart can trigger a manic episode in me the likes of which hasn't been seen since Pavlov's dog.

While most people confine their shopping to after hours and weekends, I like to think of it as an around-the-clock experience.

When I was a business reporter for this paper several years ago, I begged for the retail beat to have an excuse to duck into a shopping center in the middle of the day.

I actually enjoyed the crass gimmicks used to get people to buy, buy, buy. I thought my pet rock and my mood ring were wise investments. I've still got that eight-track player.

Of course, when you spend that much time in stores, you're bound to come home with a few items that the uninitiated might not consider necessary.

It was nearly that way the other day when I paid a visit to Savage Mill, the restored textile mill that is now an antiques center.

Luckily my wife was there, or we would have been the proud owners of several items that, while clearly essential to modern existence, can put quite a strain on the pocketbook.

There was, of course, the pair of life-size bronze centaurs that would have added so much to the end of our driveway.

At $9,500 each, these half-horse, half-man creatures inspired by Greek mythology can lend a certain panache to the old family estate.

The fact that my property can be traversed in about five steps raised some question about whether the statues were a bit out of proportion to the land, not to mention my sense of reality.

In the end, I chose not to buy, torn as I was once my eye caught sight of the statues of spawning fish and the nude nymph reclining in a bird bath.

Those were some of the items on sale in the Old Weave Building. All of Savage Mill's five buildings have quaint names like that, in keeping with the historic restoration that began in 1985.

Today, the mill is a lot more than an antique center, and includes specialty shops, craft studios and art galleries. Until recently, I hadn't been there for years. It's a decidedly more interesting place today.

Of course, there is still E. J. Grant, which has occupied the barn at Savage Mill for close to 10 years. Ed and June Grant specialize in fine European antiques. This is upscale stuff. Right up my alley except for that nasty little problem about scale.

I'm officially putting the Grants on notice to set aside the following items until I find quarters to house them:

* The $5,500 oak sideboard with marble counter tops. I'll need 10-foot ceilings to accommodate this eight-foot beauty.

* The French walnut armoire for $8,400. A lot of people use these for entertainment centers. This one could house the entire Motown recording studio.

* The $18,000 baby grand with the elaborately carved legs. This would go well in the living room, although we'd have to leave the top up for extra seating when company came.

Needless to say, not everything at Savage Mill is expensive. There are plenty of antiques, crafts and gifts that are reasonably priced.

It's just that the high-priced items sort of jump out at you.

Even in places like Hands of Time Clock Center, where there are over 1,000 timepieces in 120 styles, the true treasures stand out.

There is the English oak grandfather clock for $5,700. And the $6,700 pine grandfather circa 1830.

All the chimes, chirps, buzzes, ticks and tocks in the world aren't going to distract me from making a beeline for the pricey stuff.

The same was true at Vibrant Handknits USA, which specializes in the sweater designs of Lee Anderson.

It took me about three seconds to zero in on the floor-length creation called Evening Garden Party, which sells for $1,300.

At that price, the garden party better be thrown by Queen Elizabeth.

As it turns out, the queen already owns one of Anderson's wearable works of art. Should have known.

Kevin Thomas is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.

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