Growing up in Bel Air, a young Annie Parker adored making stuff. “I loved crafts. I was never a sports girl,” she admits. Instead, you could find Parker adorning and creating, often with her hands covered in papier-mâché.
She studied graphic design at Towson University and, after graduation, got a job doing design work for Baltimore Clayworks. But soon, “I ditched design and picked up ceramics,” says Parker, now 28. At Clayworks, they let Parker—who was self-taught—play with the wheel and then they would fire her creations. Soon, she was selling her wares—under her full-name, Ann Margaret Ceramics at local markets and wholesale throughout Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Her pieces are beautiful—with a neutral and earthy vibe. Simple shapes that are functional, with her signature oversized handles on her mugs.
As exciting as it was seeing her goods in other people’s stores, what Parker really wanted was her own shop. She had the eye—her own aesthetic proved that—and four years working at the Anthropologie in Towson gave her the retail chops.
And it was in January 2019 that Whitehall Mill Market first reached out to Parker. They were finalizing their plans for a new space in Hampden and had signed up several businesses, including Wight Tea Co. When co-owner Brittany Wight learned that Whitehall was looking to add a small retail haven, she suggested Parker. The two knew each other from the craft bazaar circuit.
The Whitehall market is something special. Located inside a 1798 historic mill, the sprawling space houses local merchants including Crust by Mack Bakery, Ceremony Coffee, Firefly Farms Market, and Gundalow Gourmet. Parker, who lives in Baltimore with her fiance, Paul Hutson, never hesitated. “I was in it from the beginning.” she says. When she first saw the space, it was gutted. “We knew there was a lot of work to do.” To Parker, it looked like a golden opportunity to really put her mark on the 500-square-foot space. Today, it’s clean and uncluttered, modern but warm.
Even before she began sourcing merchandise, she knew she would call her shop Homebody General Store. To Parker, the name encompasses a contemporary version of a small-town store filled with a wide variety of goods. From there, she started making lists of the brands she wanted to carry in the store. Her focus: local makers she’s gotten to know at shows like Artscape and Holiday Heap and companies she admired from afar on Instagram. Her shelves are now filled with products from Mount Royal Soap Company, McFadden Art Glass, Skincando, Naturally London, Cuddle + Kind, The Bee and the Fox, Close Call Studio, and, of course, her own ceramics.
Almost every day since the store’s opening, she’s researching new brands to stock her shelves. “That’s the fun part,” she says. She prefers companies that have similar values: handmade or ethically sourced wares made by workers who are fairly compensated and many women-owned businesses. “I do my due diligence re- searching each company,” she says.
And while she was prepared for many first-time business-owner hiccups, she could not have predicted a pandemic. Her shop was supposed to open on April 20, but with the COVID restrictions put in place by Baltimore City, she wasn’t able to open her doors until two months later, on June 17.
But Parker shrugs her shoulders when asked about the hardship: “I don’t have anything to really compare it to!” So her plan is no plan. The grand opening party she always dreamed about is on permanent hold. “It was the softest shop opening in history,” she says with a laugh. But each day, she walks into the market, chatting up the other vendors. “That’s the good thing here. We’re all in it together.”