Rare weekend for exchange

Diners, shoppers praise Saturday opening

April 08, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Shoppers and diners alike called the rare Saturday opening of the Woman's Industrial Exchange yesterday a treat that should be repeated.

"I don't get here as often as I like," said Elsa Collins of Baltimore, whose granddaughter will soon be getting a pale pink smock. "They have good prices for handwork. Smocking is a real skill that few people have time to do."

Soft, fuzzy bunnies, colorful flowers and Easter eggs lured strollers along North Charles Street into the gift shop and lunchroom. The Krause family stopped by on the way home to Towson from son Peter's soccer game at Patterson Park. They bought a wooden toy for the coach's baby.

"We try a Saturday event a few times a year for people who can't get here weekdays," said Mary Brown, operations manager.

Board members of the exchange, established in the 1880s to help low-income women market their handcrafts, helped the waitresses serve meals.

"The board is heavily supplementing waitresses today and collecting tips, but all the tips are going to the staff," said Linda Goldberg, exchange board president. "Business executives are finding waiting tables is really hard work."

Ann Clapp of Guilford came for carryout deviled eggs and left with baby clothes, a tooth-fairy pillow and several stuffed rabbits.

"I love the nostalgia here," Clapp said. "I used to come for lunch all the time. ... I had forgotten that there are still people making these things."

The bakery counter was filled with cakes, tarts and cookies that the business' only cook, Dorothea Wilson, had baked that morning.

"Dorothea has been here 39 years," Brown said. "She comes in at 6 a.m. to bake and then she does lunch."

John Heiden of Roland Park lunches as often as he can at the exchange. But it is the bakery that brings him back, he said.

"I come anytime I can because I like to support this effort, and they have the best turnovers around," he said.

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