Each week we’ll be featuring a different business in our downtown community. Enjoy this question and answer interview with Beth Kline and Mary Ann McNamara, co-owners of The Blue Awning, a retailer located at 430 Race Street.

How long have you been in business? 2 years

Do you have online ordering?  Yes, individuals can order online from  Locals can call or text us with their orders at (240-498-5762) or message us on Facebook and we provide delivery in a safe and secure manner..

Do you sell online gift cards? The Blue Awning is participating in the Downtown Cambridge program for individuals to purchase gift certificates.

How did you get started? We [Beth & Mary Ann] both owned houses in Cambridge as part-timers since 2001.  When Mary Ann retired and moved to Cambridge full time, she was thinking what happens now?  She was always interested in opening a gift shop and decided to make that happen.  When Beth retired six months later, we decided to join forces and in mid-April 2018, The Blue Awning was born.

Have you had any businesses before this one? No

Did you do something else before you opened the shop ?  Mary Ann was the Grants Program Administrator for High Speed Rail at the Federal Railroad Administration.  Beth was the Associate Director for Management and Museum Services at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

Do you have any hobbies? Gardening, cooking, baking and a wide variety of creative outlets.

What makes you different from other merchants or restaurants?  The shop’s brand ID is to provide unique and creative items for the home and garden.  In addition to gift items, we carry DIY Paint (a clay-based paint that is perfect for up-cycling furniture) and Iron Orchid Designs (IOD) décor stamps, transfers and moulds that completely transform furniture, etc. and unleash your creative spirit.  We offer hands-on workshops throughout the year that use the DIY Paint and IOD products, as well as workshops with seasonal themes.

What distinguishes your  brand?  Our main goal is to offer items that you won’t find at other shops in the Cambridge area.  We spend a lot of time researching merchandise to maintain a reasonable price point and we encourage our customers to come in and just explore.  We always have a table set up in the back room, so we can share the experience of DIY Paint and IOD products with new users.  We love engaging with our customers and getting them excited about thinking outside the box.

How are you coping during the Covid 19 crisis:  Like everyone else, the shop is temporarily closed but we are looking forward to the day we can reopen.  We would have celebrated the shop’s second anniversary on April 14, so that was a bummer, but we are both keeping positive and moving forward.  During this “down time”, we got The Blue Awning website up and running, which enables us to sell products online.  We’ve also been busy posting on Facebook and Instagram to keep our customers engaged.  We are fulfilling local orders and providing delivery in the Cambridge area.  We are working on revamping the shop by relocating merchandise and creating new shopping experiences.

What type of products do you carry?  Gifts and décor for the home and garden, i.e., table linens, tabletop accessories, books, DIY Paint, Iron Orchid Designs products, Metal Birds, terra cotta planters, garden gloves, Swedish dishcloths, tea towels, handmade crab table runners, Cambridge themed pillows, Maryland/Cambridge coasters, and so much more

Has your business suffered and if so what percent are you down? Definitely.  Our sales for March were down 30% and we had to cancel all the workshops scheduled for late March – May.  The revenue shortfall will be much more drastic for April and May, etc.

What has most surprised you during the crisis?  How empty downtown is.  While it isn’t necessarily surprising, we really appreciate the outpouring of support and concern from our friends and customers.  Likewise, downtown merchants as a whole are committed to working together with the goal of everyone being able to reopen when we get the green light.

What do you miss most?  Just being in the shop and the daily interaction with fellow merchants, friends and customers.

How do you protect yourself or your staff?  Wearing masks when anywhere in public and always washing hands; limiting exposure.

What cleaning methods do you employ?  Cleaning all countertop surfaces and will be making hand sanitizer available once we reopen.

Business Contact Information:
The Blue Awning
Owners – Mary Ann McNamara and Beth Kline
430 Race Street
Facebook: “The Blue Awning”