Catonsville Patch: How long have you been in business in Catonsville?
Nini Sarmiento: We opened Home Anthology in 2002 at an antiques coop in Cockeysville.
Rob Degenhard: We were there for a year and a half and then moved to the Oella Mill.
Sarmiento: And then we had to move from there after about another year and a half because they sold to a developer.
Degenhard: This space on Mellor works great for us. Our website serves more as advertising; we sell mostly out of here and our clientele comes from Baltimore, Columbia, and D.C., so the location is perfect. We also ship: California, Seattle, Australia! But most frequently to New York.
Patch: Why did you choose Catonsville?
Degenhard: When we lost the Oella space, we knew we wanted to stay on the west side because of the convenience for our clients. In the bigger picture, this is a niche in antiques which you can find in New York, LA, and Chicago, but we don’t have much local competition.
Patch: What is this style of design called?
Degendard: Mid-century modern. It really began with the Bauhaus School in Germany earlier in the 20th Century, but then everything stopped for the war [WWII]. After the war, American designers and manufacturers were pushing the envelope with style . . .
Sarmiento: and innovation . . .
Degenhard: and materials. There was a post-war boom in housing . . .
Sarmiento: and new sensibilities about the future.
Patch: What do you like about being in Catonsville?
Degenhard: There are great amenities for our customers in Catonsville: places to eat, music stores. One time a truck driver went out looking around while we unloaded our merchandise, and he came back with a trumpet and a guitar!
Sarmiento: It’s a really nice mix of small businesses. We get folks who use the bike and hiking trails who stop in.
Degenhard: I’m from Catonsville. I love this side of town.
Sarmiento: We’re hoping to move over here to live. We’re looking.
Patch: Are you life partners as well?
Degenhard: We’ve been married since ’94.
Sarmiento: But we’ve known each other since ’87; we met in college. We both went to Loyola.
Patch: How has your business changed over time?
Sarmiento: We have had challenges as all small businesses have with this recession, but we have grown despite it. I think people are more willing to put money into decorating their homes because they are spending more time there. I think it began with 9/11 and has really continued, this idea of the home as a haven.
Patch: Where do you find your inventory?
Degenhard: After being in business for ten years, people contact us now. We mostly purchase our stock, but we have a few consignors. We also have traveled to Denmark to import vintage furniture; we have it shipped back in a container.
Patch: What is your busiest time of year?
Sarmiento: As the weather gets colder and people start staying indoors more, business often picks up; we will sell tables and chairs before the holidays, and sometimes we see a jump around when people get their tax refunds.
Degenhard: Lots of people in the antiques business are saying that it is getting harder to predict what the cycles will be.
Sarmiento: People see something they like; they want to snap it up.
Patch: What’s one of the hardest things about your work?
Sarmiento: I just said to Rob recently that there are not enough hours in every day. It’s just the two of us doing everything: buying, cleaning, inventory, website, book-keeping, answering the phone and email, photographing, and balancing all that with a life. Just the whole challenge of maintaining everything is pretty daunting.
Degenhard: It’s a double edged sword. Our schedule is flexible, but it also means we can be working all the time. For the first four or five years, it was definitely an obsession and it really had to be . . .
Sarmiento: but now we understand a bit better what is required.
Patch: What are you proud of?
Degenhard: Lasting ten years.
Sarmiento: People thought we were crazy when we quit our jobs to do this!
Degenhard: And not just lasting as a business but also as a couple. When we had the paperwork drawn up for the business, our lawyer told us to keep his card because he also handled divorces!
Patch: What’s your favorite thing about your work?
Sarmiento: For me it’s the website. It’s what we’re presenting. With all the craziness behind the scenes, the website can be sleek and polished. We also have met some wonderful customers over the years, and it’s great when they say that they’re really enjoying a piece they bought from us.
Degenhard: Working together can be stressful. But of all the jobs I’ve ever had, I love the companionship of working with Nini.
Sarmiento (and Patch): Awwwww . . .
Degenhard: I also love the history of the design, doing research on a piece.
Patch: What are you looking forward to?
Sarmiento: We are really happy here in Catonsville and we’d like to live here too. People say, “Why Catonsville?” and we say, “Why not Catonsville?”
Degenhard: People come down from New York or up from DC and they can’t believe how friendly and nice people are here.
Patch: What is one thing you think is needed in the business community?
Degenhard: With Catonsville being the music capital, we definitely should have a performance space here.
Sarmiento: It’s great to have the outdoor music in the summer time but a more permanent venue would be good.
Degenhard: Also, you get people just driving through Catonsville on their way to Ellicott City. We need them to notice that there is a unique town here too.
Patch: What's the best piece of advice that someone has given you when it comes to running a business?
Sarmiento: For us, it was always just to be honest and straight forward with folks and to keep it simple.
Degenhard: So the passion you have for the business doesn’t get lost.