Original Souls has been located at 8120 Main Street since February 2007, but loyal customers would be forgiven for not recognizing the place.
After being closed for the past six weeks, the eclectic gift shop re-opened its doors to customers on Wednesday with a newly redesigned interior that invites shoppers to stay a while.
Although open again now, a grand re-opening ceremony is planned for Saturday, April 30, and will feature music, food and fun.
The six-week break was precipitated by a change in building ownership, and store owners Sheila Morrison and Diane Standeven used the time wisely.
With the help of interior designer Leslie Lewart (of past Main Street favorite Rugs to Riches) the interior of the store has been completely redone with an eye for color and details. The fresh new colors pop and compliment the new layout of the space. A central structure has been build to allow for more merchandise and a better flow to the room.
The store is visually very different-- a change which extends to the merchandise as well. Morrison and Standeven worked hard to get new artists, vendors and designers, adding to the unique nature of the offerings.
Standeven notes that “the store will look brand new to our longstanding customers, but some old favorite [vendors] are back.” Morrison adds that the original goal of the store was to create a “sense of warmth and comfort when you walk in.” The renovated space still does that.
Standeven explains that when the two women were first looking for a space, “We looked long and hard for a shop, and wanted to be in Ellicott City.” After running the business by invitation only out of Morrison’s Oella home for a year they found the perfect space and have been there ever since.
What makes Original Souls so different and such a unique store? Mainly, it’s Morrison and Standeven. Their approach to retail and life led them to the creation of what they hope is more than just a shop.
As Morrison tells it, “Our purpose was to open a store with a different approach. Original Souls is a socially responsible store, and we support local and emerging artists.”
Being socially responsible means a few of things to Morrison and Standeven.
First, it means that they specialize in unique and different items that, for the most part, come from vendors and artists that pledge to give back to their own communities. Eight-five percent of the artists whose items are sold at Original Souls are committed to socially responsible business and fair trade principles and donate portions of their own profits to charitable organizations. In addition, a portion of Original Soul’s profits are also donated on a quarterly basis to such organizations as food banks, cancer research, Relay for Life and more.
With this new layout, Morrison and Standeven have put aside a wall space to feature one new and emerging artist at a time. Their goal is to exhibit these new artists to introduce people to their work, gallery style.
From now until May 31, the gallery wall features Savannah, Ga., artist Katrina Schmidt-Rinke, who paints in watercolor and oils. The artists being showcased will cover a range of mediums and styles, but all will be different and unique, in keeping with the theme of the store.
Original Souls was created with the goal of becoming a “center for community…[a place] of people getting together and feeling really part of the community in Ellicott City. Loyal customers feel at home and not like they are intruding; like it was 100 years ago” explains Morrison.
Morrison and Standeven have been friends for 18 years and met when they were nurses and neighbors in Ellicott City. When they opened up Original Souls, Morrison brought some long-ago retail experience from Once Upon A Time, where she specialized in hand-crafted toys, cars and even had a little lunchroom.
The women are now assisted by Deborah Brookman, who brings additional Main Street retail experience into the venture.
Original Souls is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and most holidays.
This article has been corrected to correct the address of Original Souls.