Whatever Happened To ... ?


July 05, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

For nearly four decades, Ruth Shaw eschewed the stuffy formality of traditional women's clothing and sold the trendiest lines at her boutique in Cross Keys.

This year, she sold the boutique bearing her name to Ray Mitchener, her longtime buyer and manager.

Shaw said her love of daring and offbeat fashions drove her to open the boutique.

"I like natural fibers and linen, for instance. A little whimsical humor in clothing helps too," she said, adding:

"I never bought what my customers wanted. I bought what I wanted. You have to have confidence in what you're doing, and I loved it."

Shaw was born in Baltimore and raised in Washington. She attended the University of Maryland.

During the early 1950s, she worked for the General Services Administration and then went to work on Capitol Hill as press secretary to Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, a Maryland Democrat who served one term before being defeated by J. Glenn Beall Jr. in 1970.

"I decided to go into business for myself. I felt there was a need in Baltimore for a different type of clothing store incorporating a sportswear mentality," she said. "I never dressed formally and thought it was the right time to try something different."

In 1973, she launched Ruth Shaw in Cross Keys.

Shaw recalled that James W. Rouse, the developer of Cross Keys, told her that the venture would not succeed because she did not have business experience.

"I wasn't bitter, and I said, 'Just let me make money,'" Shaw recalled telling the acclaimed developer of Columbia and Harborplace.

Shaw said she got a great deal of satisfaction from running the boutique.

"Fashion is about making you feel good. It's not brain surgery," she said, laughing. "A woman one time asked me if the garment she was looking at was a good investment.

"I told her, 'Honey, if you want a good investment, go down the street and buy a building.'"

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