Home & Living

Milio’s Mission

To this pop-up shop entrepreneur, local makers matter.

What 24 hours earlier had been a vacant storefront in North Baltimore was now a carefully curated pop-up shop. And on this Saturday morning in March, customers streamed into the temporary home-goods shop Taken, filling the space with excited murmurs as they browsed through the products, many of them one-of-a-kind.

Offering everything from Wight Tea Company’s loose-leaf teas to fragrant handcrafted soaps by Silver Linings Lavender and soy candles by Art C, owner Vanessa Milio says she wants her customers to see the best of Maryland goods, crafts, and collectibles. An aficionado of cool, vintage stuff, Milio, who holds a master’s degree in book arts and printmaking from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, is no stranger to showing up to an estate sale, eager for a good find, only to have the best antiques bearing the dreaded label reading, “taken.” “You’re in that moment of, ‘Ugh, I wanted that!’ It’s like, ‘I missed something,’” she says.

As a child Milio had a dream of being an artist, an aspiration that has morphed a little bit: A longtime plan to set up a community hub that sells handmade goods was set in motion three years ago while Milio was attending a women-in-business event with a friend. Previously the president and CEO of the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, Milio was an expert when it came to helping small businesses get off the ground, but her nonprofit work took up most of her professional energy, delaying dreams of owning a craft store until after retirement.

But as she sat at the event, taking in the same advice as dozens of others who were mulling a business venture, Milio realized there wasn’t really anything stopping her—not even her other professional commitments or her responsibilities as a mother.

Six weeks later, in December of 2015, Taken hosted its first pop-up at The Painted Palette in Mt. Washington. Despite the blink-or-you’ll-miss-it nature of that first event—with set-up, sale, and break-down happening within the same day—its unexpected success made it evident that Taken was here to stay: Lines were out the door as people waited for a peek at the goods offered by the 30 makers featured.

Since then, she’s had pop-up shops from Bel Air to Chestertown (and also online at shoptaken.com). And besides featuring local makers, they’ve also reflected her support of sustainability through the sale of vintage pieces, a belief that inspired the company’s tagline, “forever reinventing.”

“You’re telling a story of these vintage pieces, of the lineage of these maker products,” she says. “And you’re then saying to the customer, ‘If you find something you love, that’s part of your story now.’”