Once considered too high-end to succeed in Baltimore, Ruth Shaw, Inc. boutique has grown into a 40-year fashion mainstay. The secret to its very loyal customer base? According to owner Ray Mitchener, pictured with original owner Ruth Shaw, it’s simple: “We want all of our customers to feel welcomed and well-informed about new styles.” Mitchener, who started with the Cross Keys shop in 1977 as a buyer and took ownership in 2008, says, “I do have a few customers who still shop with me today who started with Ruth.” Shaw opened her boutique in 1973 with quality designers and clothing in mind. (Her fashion aversion? “Really cheap fabric or cheap clothing,” she states.) The store’s impeccable, curated selection of European and American designers—like Band of Outsiders, Carven, Alexander Wang, and Cedric Charlier—has long appealed to local fashionistas, as well as notable visitors like Oprah Winfrey, Carly Simon, Marlo Thomas, and Rita Moreno. It has also gained the attention of national publications such as Harper’s Bazaar (which named the store a “Style Leader for Maryland”), Elle Magazine (“one of the top 50 boutiques in the country”), and, most recently, Lucky magazine. “We were just informed by Lucky that they have chosen us as one of the best stores,” says Mitchener. But the boutique has no intention of resting on its laurels. Mitchener is planning a redesign of the space. “The older, red décor will be replaced with gray carpet, less wicker, and more clean lines,” he explains. The name and brand of the boutique will carry on. “Why would I change the name? It’s an established name both in the European and American markets and has so much clout.”
Baltimore fashion institution Ruth Shaw turns 40.
Issue date: September, 2013