Innovator in her own right

She relishes success of antiques store she started in early '50s

October 29, 2006|By Mary Ellen Graybill | Mary Ellen Graybill,Special to The Sun

It's a lot of fun," said a freshly coifed Emma Carroll, 88, of life at Glencoe Gardens, as she plans what gown to wear to a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

From the mid-1950s to the late 1980s, she was busy starting up and running an antiques and household furnishings consignment business in the rural, hilly property at 15900 York Road in Sparks. She continues to live in one end of the remodeled barn, an icon to passers-by looking for a good antiques shop.

Wiley and Colby Hawks have been renting the space since 1989 for their antiques, decorations and gifts, and expanded to three floors - 6,000 square feet of items ranging from an old waterproof Timex watch for $4.50 to an original painting of the Baltimore harbor at night by Ralph McGuire for $4,900.

"What will happen today?" said Wiley Hawks, who handles the rare furnishings that come in day after day, mostly from families downsizing or changing residences. His wife handles the jewelry and glassware.

"It's been great," said Wiley of the years the husband-and-wife team has managed the thriving shop.

"We've had squirrels running around inside. ... Every day you got to learn something. There's never a dull moment," said Wiley Hawks, the son of the late Sun feature writer Ellen Hawks.

The inside of the building is livable now, thanks to the remodeling done by William Clarence Price, Carroll's first husband.

"It was at one time considered a derelict building," said Wiley Hawks.

"People find the stone and brickwork interesting," Carroll said. The outside always had the open brick work and stone.

When she and Price bought the property in 1952, it took two years to change it from a barn to a house and retail stores.

"The bottom was the stable part and the top - this level was where they drove the hay wagons into [the barn]," she said.

Today the structure houses a hair salon in addition to the antique business.

Price put in plantings, set not only in rows, but placed to "enhance the beauty of the grounds," said Carroll. Today, the view from inside the deep-set windows of her home brings to mind a forest with large drooping long-needled pines. The trees and other plantings around the building create a velvety green oasis.

While helping Price in the office, answering the phone, Carroll found that she liked nourishing a new business idea for herself.

It would be a first.

She conceived the idea of selling items on consignment. No clothing, just household furnishings and decorative items. She developed the book work, using notebooks, and set about letting people in the area know they could sell items at her shop for a 25 percent fee. It was a new idea.

It took off.

There was no zoning at the time, she said. "You didn't need a permit at that time to have an antique shop.

"The important thing was that I was very careful: When something was sold I paid the people promptly. And I felt that that was one thing that was instrumental in my becoming a success, because as soon as their things were sold, they were paid.

"Now the shops are all over the place," she said.

"I enjoyed the different things and learned a lot, and there were a lot of older women interested in antiques and they were happy to find a place where they could put their things. If they could buy something and sell it at a higher price [here], they were doing their own little business but using my store as their sales area," she said.

The shop was such a success it led to the current business - named Baltimore's Best Antiques 1997-2000. The business now relies on a computer to keep inventory.

It's still a place to call home for Emma Carroll. She manages the more than 100 acres around the property with an eye to preservation and plans to keep it free of development.

The place is a home base for an active octogenarian who never sits still, a woman with a hearty sense of humor, still active with Daughters of the American Revolution.

While she left the nursery business in Towson when her first husband died in 1968, and closed the nursery after her second husband, Roger Carroll, died, Emma Carroll never retired from her active role in the DAR, acting as officer in the Maryland State Region and as curator general in the national board of the DAR. Meetings take her to DAR headquarters in Washington.

She recently made a nomination at a gala event that took her to a weekend series of events including a trip to Fort McHenry and dinner at the Engineers Club in Baltimore.

She loves her gardens, grounds and keeps house with her elegant furnishings, some dating to the 17th century. Her love for antiques came from her parents, Robert Daniel Mosner and Lynde Elizabeth Mosner.

"Mother and Daddy knew some furniture builders," she said, which sparked her interest in antiques at an early age.

Finding the right merchandise and learning what price merchandise would bring, and not trying to price herself out of the market is what she has passed on to the Hawkses, who have the same philosophy.

Carroll has some pet cats that often settle by her feet on a hassock. Meissen and Minton are twin cats named after her favorite china - one German and the other English.

Life changed again when her second husband, "Papa Carroll," died of a heart attack in 1975, just three years after they were married.

She said activities in the antique consignment shop and the DAR, and other organizations including groups like Dames of the Court of Honor and Daughters of the American Colonists, have kept her busy.

The organizations provide contributions to worthy educational and other causes, she said.

There is no sign that Emma Carroll is going to slow down anytime soon, and her bag is ready for the next trip to Washington. Meanwhile, she keeps an eye on the antique business next door run by friends Wiley and Colby Hawks.

"It's a lot of fun, like Wiley says. Everything happens here - mostly funny," she said.

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