Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet Elizabeth Jane: What's in a name?

Storefront window with reflection.
 "For me, family is everything. I thought and thought about the perfect name. I had list upon list and then suddenly I thought about my Grandmothers and I put it together and that was it. I never looked back. I needed the store to connect to them..." (Tammy Beideman, Creator)


More than an aside: Beideman had been a school teacher for 10 years, working with kids and families. When her oldest daughter was born, she stopped teaching to stay home with her. It was then that she started to paint furniture that she "found" and decorating her house with it...the beginning of an interest that resulted in two stores..."

I had wondered, even before going in to this fascinating shop in Ellicott City's Historic District (Main Street) about the origin of the shop's name: Sweet Elizabeth Jane. So I wrote to her asking the question...Tammy's thoughtful, understandably emotional, answers to me comprise the majority of this feature article. I have added photos of the exterior and interior. But, it's Tammy's story in her own words...  

NOW, The Interview...

KW: Tammy, please tell me a bit about the transition from CAPLAN's Department Store to your shop. The overlay of occupancies in a historic district is always of interest.  

Caplans's Sign
Tammy: John and Shelly Harris moved out on January 31, 2011 -- and I became the tenant as of February 1st. I was approached by a realtor about leasing the Caplan Building when I decided to leave my former partnership - Vintage Girls. I had no idea that the building was available when I made the decision to open my own store.

"Sweet Elizabeth Jane" storefront.

If I hadn’t rented the Caplan Building, it surely would have gone to someone else. They had definite ideas about how they wanted the space used and were looking for a specific type of tenant. Today, I feel very grateful to be settled in to this lovely space in a historic district that so many people visit and enjoy.

"Sweet Elizabeth Jane" storefront.

  KW: Now, please tell me about how your Grandmothers fit in to the store name and its "retro" contents. Is that all part of it? First, tell me about the Jane-half of your shop's name.

So much to look at!
  Tammy: To be honest, I had never really connected the store to the 50s and to the lives of my Grandmothers, but named it after them because they were amazing women whom I loved very much and because my store is about women...
  Each of them was the matriarch of her family. Jane was my maternal grandmother. She was a beautiful Greek woman who endured a lot of tough things in her life. She had 5 children who were her whole world. My Grandfather was also Greek and came to America from Greece on a boat when he was a boy. Jane was full of love and very generous. When her name is mentioned to anyone who knew her, it becomes obvious she was an exceptional woman. She died when I was 10, but I was very close to her. I was the first grandchild on my mom’s side and my mom was only 19 when I was born. 

Customer looking at jewelry.
  About Jane, continued...I spent a lot of time with her and I have the best memories of sleepovers, big Greek dinners and loud laughter. She loved to be surrounded by her family, but many would say I was like her because we weren’t the ones in the front, but in the background. In our family, everyone kisses hugs and yells--a boisterous bunch, but she and I were more reserved than the rest. I feel so lucky to have grown up this way. We lost her at 53 to cancer. At the end of her life, everyone wanted to be with her. She was an amazing woman. I am so proud she is a part of me.

    KW: Now, please tell me about YOUR Grandmother.

  Tammy: It’s hard for me to begin with “Elizabeth”--my Granny--she went by the name Virginia and she spent her entire life in College Park. She was truly one-of-a-kind. She had a shirt with the old iron on letters that said “I LOVE EVERYBODY!” and she did and everybody loved her. Yes, I was a Galvin until I married. Irish Catholics. She had 5 strong willed children. Their boisterous gatherings made the Greeks look shy. 

Every area is beautifully designed and displayed.
  My memories are of lots of family gatherings filled with many cousins and my grandmother as the life of the party. She lived her life to the fullest. She was funny, generous, out-spoken, politically incorrect,  fiercely independent, extremely patriotic and 100% honest whether the situation called for it or not. I adored her. Everyone did. 

One view, when entering the store.

  Elizabeth believed in decorating everything. One of those people you see driving down the highway with artificial flowers taped to the antenna and jingle bells on the bumper. My parents divorced when I was 3 and my dad lived with her after that so I spent a lot of weekends with her. I feel so lucky to have had her for so long. My children were also very close to her. Because we still live close and many have moved away, we spent a lot of time with her. She was always a pleasure to be with-even when she was dying. 

  She had 91 healthy years and then got cancer and died at 92. Watching her go through that was very painful for all of us. A couple weeks before she died I was able to tell her that I was opening my own store and naming it after her and Jane. She immediately went into how hard Jane’s life was and how wonderful she was.  I really wanted her to make it to the opening, but on December 4, she passed away and I got the news in the middle of Midnight Madness and it seemed appropriate to me that she would go during this big night.

For me, family is everything. I thought and thought about the perfect name. I had list upon list and then suddenly I thought about my grandmothers and I put it together and that was it. I never looked back. I needed the store to connect to them. They were each such an integral part of who I am and I wanted them to be a part of the store. 

Curtains with flounces in bright colors.
Tammy continues: Both of them were strong women who pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for women in that time. Each dealt with a lot of hardship, one coming from a foreign country when being foreign was not popular, the other facing multiple challenges in her personal life, but that isn’t what stands out to me. While very different, each was a great role model and strong woman choosing to look at the positive side of life instead of dwelling on the hard things.

Products for the kitchen.
  KW: The refrigerator has a little DECO styling, I think. Can you tell me something about it? The date, perhaps?
  Tammy: I am not sure about the date of the refrigerator. It came from my grandmother’s house.
The aprons are a major feature!
  Tammy: Aprons have always been a big seller for me. I love all things vintage and retro. I love aprons especially and now it seems I have “apronologists” who work at the shop. 

  Caitlin Mullett made up this title. She loves aprons also and has a huge collection. She was definitely a rare “find” and the perfect match for managing the store with me. 
Be sure to visit this charming store!
  End of interview. This graphic provides an address and was part of the opening of Sweet Elizabeth Jane on Friday, April 1, 2011.

Lisa, Tam, and Cait
  Cut to Present: Says Tammy Beideman - Tam
  "I find that the variety of people come in looking for different things. We sell a lot of home décor items, furniture (vintage and new), gifts, jewelry, hats and scarves. It really depends on the customer. I try to create a positive experience and environment in the shop so people will feel like there is a lot to see and walk away feeling like it was time well spent even if they didn’t buy that day. We have a lot of regular customers and many tourists as well. Most seem to have received the shop well and are happy we are here. 
  As with anything new, there is a lot for me to learn, change and grow. I have a great group of girls (who have named themselves “apronologists” because they love aprons as much as I do!) who work at the store and I couldn’t do this without them. I enjoy collaborating together and having people to share in the excitement of the new finds that come in."  

8125 Main Street, Ellicott City, 21043
Store hours: 11-5 mon-wed; thurs-sat 11-9; and sun 12-6.
Blog feature content: Kay Weeks and Tammy Beideman
Photos: Kay Weeks  10/26/11 

Be sure to visit for much more information about
Ellicott City Historic District and beyond.



Denee Barr Art News and More said...


Maragret-May said...

What a wonderful tour of a delightful place. I am going to share this with my friends and my brother. MM

Anonymous said...

Tammy, this article is absolutely beautiful. It was hard to read with tears streaming down my face, but I couldn’t stop reading it. I feel like I just spend a few minutes with her and I thank you for that.

Love, Aunt B

Anonymous said...

I had the same response except I was sitting at my desk. My assistant walked in and wanted to know what was wrong…I just sent her the link.

Nichole M. Galvin, Esq.

Anonymous said...


The article is wonderful. I love it. I’m going to print it and save it. I’m so proud of YOU!!! You have done amazing things! You are a remarkable woman.



Cathy Ruff

Anonymous said...


You are such a very special person – thanks for sharing.


(Patrick J. Hagan)

Anonymous said...

Tammy, you did a great job with the article and the shop is so beautiful, you make us all so proud.

Aunt Patty

(Patricia Singleton)

Anonymous said...

That was incredible!!!

Shelly Hagan

(Tammy writes: This is Barbara’s daughter--the oldest grandchild of Elizabeth)

Anonymous said...

You did a great job, Kay!

This was really fascinating. You are a person of many interests. Thanks.

Elaine Bane

debbie said...

Tammy -- A lovely article that I shared with my family. It is obvious how VERY important family is in your life -- a quality that is truly admired. It am proud to work at your store -- a lot of fun. I am amazed at your talent and ideas. Deb