Ellicott City gets a jolt of punk rock

Store: A young businessman hopes to find success on Main Street with hard-to-find music.

April 08, 2003|By Deitrich Curry | Deitrich Curry,SUN STAFF

After high school, Vince Saulsbury didn't bother with college or take the other usual routes in pursuit of success. Instead, the 22-year-old Catonsville resident started a business on Main Street in Ellicott City.

It's a historic street jammed with antiques shops, art galleries and restaurants with the occasional quirky exception, such as a comic book shop and Saulsbury's place, The Store That Cannot Be Named.

Saulsbury sells hard-to-find punk rock records and compact discs, art, clothing and an eclectic mix of tiki mugs, shot glasses, belt buckles, cufflinks and ashtrays, from his shop tucked in a Main Street minimall.

One recent day, he sat waiting for customers on a black barstool next to the register, tapping his fingers on his knee to a song by the Dwarves, a punk rock group.

Two rose tattoos could be seen on either side of his neck and a tattoo of his wife's name, Trish, was visible on his hand. "I considered being a history teacher," Saulsbury said. "But I don't know any teachers with tattoos on their neck."

Saulsbury said he is proud that he is not a traditional retailer. "I used to open at 10, but no one would come until after noon," he noted. "Now I get more sleep."

Brandon Finnigan, 18, of Catonsville was the first customer of the day. Finnigan bought a Cramps compact disc. "A lot of this you can't find anywhere else," Finnigan said, pointing to the CD display featuring groups such as the Misfits, Black Flag and Minor Threat. "I like punk music. It's pretty neat to have a punk rock store in Ellicott City."

Another customer, Ryan Russell, 14, came in wearing a Sex Pistols hat. "I like the music they sell and the shirts they have," he said. "I buy CDs whenever I have the money."

Across the minimall hall is the Celtic Knot Yarn Shop, which attracts a different kind of patron. But Celtic Knot owner Carole Ferguson is enthusiastic about her young neighbor.

"I think he's great. He has a great personality, he's very professional, and very courteous," said Ferguson, who sometimes buys music at his store. "He's very helpful to his customers."

Andre Rollins, owner of Andre's barbershop upstairs, greeted Saulsbury as he passed by. "I think the store can do well. He's a smart businessman the way he decorated his windows to draw people in," Rollins said. "I worry about the crowd getting a little bit rowdy when it gets warmer."

The walls in the store are painted red with slightly risque framed photos of pinup model Bettie Page for sale along the walls. A sticker on the window of the black-painted door reads: "If you are easily offended, do not enter." Another reads: "No unsupervised children."

"Better safe than sorry," Saulsbury said of the stickers.

Many small businesses fail within a year or two of their start, but Saulsbury, who saved every cent he had to open his shop in November, said he is confident his will survive. "I think there's enough interest for what I do," he said. "I plan on doing this for the rest of my life."

Saulsbury said his business had suffered from the raw winter. "It was cold and no one wanted to be out," he said.

He said that last month he was just making the rent. His wife is a waitress at a Baltimore bar where he used to work and helps cover their living expenses, Saulsbury said.

Jared Spahn, president of Ellicott City Business Association, predicted the store will do well. "We're always excited when someone brings a new product to Main Street," he said.

Saulsbury's mother, Francis Saulsbury, is another true believer. "I'm so proud of him," she said. "He's living the American dream."

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