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Mount Washington is truly 'something else'

As you drive down Sulgrave Avenue, just off I-83 in Mount Washington, you get the feeling that you could be in any small country town in America. There are no tall office buildings here. No trash-littered streets. American Flags fly from most every storefront and home.

But as you walk around the small commercial district, the size of three city blocks, you begin to see that Mount Washington is not your average small town. It is a community influenced by art and dedicated to preserving its long tradition as a getaway from all that is modern city life.

In its early days, Mount Washington was a summer destination for wealthy Baltimoreans who wanted to escape the heat of downtown. This small community located in North Baltimore was quiet and peaceful, a feeling that has lingered through the generations here.

Something Else

Today, people still come to Mount Washington for its relaxing atmosphere but also for the town’s unique variety of shopping. One of the most distinctive shops on the town’s main street is rightfully named “Something Else”.

At first glance, Something Else appears to be an unconventional clothing store, which it is, but it is so much more. Elsie Fergusson, owner of Something Else, describes her store as a “clothing boutique, with a eclectic assortment of clothing, jewelry, accessories, and gifts such as Mexican fold art and crazy little chachka items”.

Elsie, a former department store buyer, has been in this location for a quarter century with a customer base that stretches back just as far. “We have a wonderful following of customers”, Elsie boasts, “from Maryland, Virginia, Washington. Some that have been shopping with me for 30 years”.

Shannon Monahan of Fells Point is a Something Else regular. “I have been coming her for a few years now. I love this place because, no matter how often I come in, I am sure to find something I haven’t seen before”.

Treasure Hunting

At Something Else, treasures are not hard to find. You won’t come across shirts made by Ralph Lauren or DKNY jeans here, but you will discover hand-made silk bears from India or Mexican Day of the Dead altar ornaments. Clothing made from an organic material called flax is now all the rave here. To Elsie, trying to find her favorite item in the store is like “trying to choose your favorite child”. This is understandable because Elsie chooses every item that fills her packed shelves.

Whether it is trade shows in New York, a market in Mexico, Indonesia, India, or Morocco, she says, “wherever I go I buy”. It is this cultural diversity that makes this store unique, and unique stores like Something Else that make Mount Washington diverse.

Welcome Home

Linnie Greene, a Baltimore artist and an employee at Something Else says Mount Washington has a real family atmosphere. “Everyone is so related”, Linnie describes, “there is a real familiarity that the store owners have” with the community.

It is that family feeling that brings Linnie from her home in Federal Hill to Mount Washington everyday to work. But she doesn’t only work here; she does a lot of shopping here also. “Mall shopping scares me”, she confesses, “I haven’t been in a mall in years”. Some even say mall shopping makes these shoppers ill.

This attitude is typical of shoppers in this community. Items that you find in these shops, you will never see at K-Mart on blue-light special. They are one of a kind, not unlike this little clothing boutique.

As you stroll the little shops on Sulgrave Avenue, you begin to forget about the hectic shopping at suburban malls, where clothing is mass-produced and no item is matchless. Packed parking lots and employees that are only worried about when they get off of work is what you expect there. Elsie Fergusson says shops like Something Else are “high on service”. - “Small stores can help you more, fixing people up with different outfits”.

But it doesn’t take long to be reminded that you are in a large U.S. city. A few blocks from Something Else there is a light rail station and a MTA bus stop. These mass transit systems don’t only bring customers to Mount Washington shops, they are a connection with the modern city that just keeps getting closer.

Mount Washington is rich in history and tradition. No longer downtown residents come here to flee the summer heat; now the exodus is from the suburban malls that dot the county. Visitors come to search for an irreplaceable gift or to have lunch at one of the outdoor cafes. No matter the reason people come here, they keep coming back. For Mount Washington is truly something else.

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