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Historic Savage Mill
By Lindsey Colross
What was once a textile weaving business, a one-ring circus, a linoleum storage spot and a Christmas Display Village is now considered one of Maryland 's most unique shopping experiences.
Savage Mill, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, has been a retail outlet in Howard County for the past 23 years.
In the early 1800s, the Williams brothers borrowed $20,000 from their friend John Savage to start a textile weaving business. The brothers named the business Savage Mill after their friend who helped them get their start.
The property functioned as a working textile mill until 1947, when it was turned into a Christmas Display Village and began manufacturing Christmas tree ornaments until 1953 when the business went bankrupt.
The mill sat idle for a while, until it was used for linoleum storage, and then turned into a one-building retail outlet in 1982.
Today Savage Mill houses 62 tenants with a blend of antique shops, art galleries, boutiques and other specialty shops.
“All the stores are run by their owners and there aren't any chain shops. We have retailers and artists who always have their own unique personality—it is really like a family,” said Karen Schlegel, director of leasing at Savage Mill.
There are five buildings that make up the mill—New Weave, Old Weave, Carding, Spinning and Cotton Shed. Each building is named along the lines of what happened in them almost 200 years ago. For example, the Spinning building is where the thread was spun.
Theron C. Jackson, who said it is the shops and the atmosphere that make Savage Mill unique, has been a retailer in the mill for 11 years. Jackson owns Spice of Life, a gourmet spice shop that carries hard-to-find spices and tea, plus his own family tea recipe.
Hands of Time Ltd., which offers one of the largest collections of clocks in the state, was one of the first retailers in Savage Mill.
Claire Penn, an employee at Hands of Time Ltd., said that although selection is important, customer service is key.
“We don't talk to you as a customer, we talk to you as people, as human beings who come in here interested in looking around.
“We like to be able to tell you about the items and what they are, not because you want to buy it, but because you're interested to know and it's fun to know. We like to be a unique and interesting experience, not just a ‘Give me this' and run out,” said Penn.
In addition to unique shopping, Savage Mill also has Rams Head Restaurant & Tavern, which serves appetizers, lunch and dinner with a full bar; Ram's Head Rathskeller, with pool tables, dart lanes, big-screen TV's and live music; Bonaparte Breads, a retail shop and café serving authentic French breads and pastries; and The Great Room, which is used for weddings and special occasions for parties of up to 300 people.
Penn said that at Savage Mill people are always welcome to come in and look and to ask questions in all the shops.
“I think that Savage Mill keeps improving,” said Penn. “The mix of products within the mill is unique. There are events during the year like the Doll and Teddy Bear Show and the American Indian Show. It's just a fun place to be.”
“You can come and spend a day with your kids, you can look around, find things of interest to see and have a meal. You can spend a whole day and just enjoy,” said Penn.
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