2910 on the Square, 2910 O'Donnell St. 410-675-8505
Open the door to Canton's 2910 on the Square, and you can expect a warm welcome from resident pooches Sadie, Mazel and Dylan, all rescued from the mean streets of Baltimore.
"People don't ask for me when they come in," says gallery owner Stephanie Yesko with a friendly laugh. "They ask 'Where are the dogs?'"
Five years ago, Ms. Yesko was doing room sales and meeting planning for Marriott, but she had always dreamed of working for herself. A friend who shared this desire took Ms. Yesko to see a "hole in the wall" in O'Donnell Square in Canton. After her friend backed out, Ms. Yesko's enthusiasm waned. But she took a deep breath, signed the lease, and renovated the space from top to bottom. The store opened in 1999 while she was still working part time at the Renaissance Inner Harbor.
Today, the Canton gallery boasts two full floors - the top opened just a few months ago - of handmade items and other unique gifts, and Ms. Yesko, who lives only two blocks away from her shop, has been able to quit her "day job."
"It was great knowing that you're working for yourself and get to make your decisions - it was very gratifying," says the Beth Am Congregant, a native of Wisconsin. "The neatest thing was, so many people came in and said that the store was really great and Canton needed this."
Like the other businesses on the square, she keeps her store open fairly late. "We're kind of the entertainment after dinner", she says.
When the gallery first opened, the only Judaica it sold were mezuzot. But then Ms. Yesko discovered that there was a large Jewish contingent of young people and empty-nesters living in Canton.
"That first holiday season, I thought, 'We've got all these Jewish people,''' says Ms. Yesko, who stocked up on menorot and dreidels. ''And from there it just spiraled. Our Judaica just kind of took off."
Ms. Yesko soon discovered that she was getting a fair amount of business from Baltimore County. "People would ask 'How can you sell Judaica downntown?'" says Ms. Yesko." "Their thinking was you can only buy it in Pikesville. I'm proud to say in our category of sales -- jewelry is first and Judaica second."
Some of the more unique items include watercolors and 3D collages ($40 to $165) by Israeli artist Amit Yaffe, who lives in Owings Mills. The store also carries intricate paper cuts, paintings and textiles by local artist Rachel Steinberg Warschawski, challah and matzoh covers by Joy Newman and several jewelers from Israel (prices range from $40 to $290).
For the holidays, Ms. Yesko also will stock an assortment of candlesticks, dreidels and menorot from CJ Art in Israel, made of Jerusalem stone and glass with laser images ($75 to $340) as well as fused dichroic glass dreidels by Tamara Baskin ($54 to $160).
Each winter, usually in February, the gallery presents Jewish Art Week. The event is sponsored by the nonpoifit American Guild of Judaic Art, which serves as a forum and referral sevice for promoting Judaica. During this time, Ms. Yesko features local Jewish artists and offers 15 percent off Judaica in exchange for donations to two local Jewish organizations.
Today, some people call 2910 "the Jewish store", but as the gallery's owner points out, "we're a whole lot more." Indeed, the store offers an eclectic array of items from jewelry, lamps and drawer pulls to handbags, gift books and children's items. Gift wrap is always complimentary but Ms. Yesko asks for a dollar an item to donate to a local charity.
"Starting the day after Thanksgiving, we pick three Baltimore charities, one dog-related, one people-related, and one food-related," she says, noting that they raise just under $500 a year for these organizations.