A serendipitous internet search for her grandmother's set of Pyrex bowls sparked Katie Kracke's passion for collecting the dishes that were a kitchen staple between the 1940s and 1980s.
Kracke, 41, who lives in Jarrettsville, was startled to see hundreds of patterns that spanned decades: "I always thought there was just one pattern that my mother and grandmother had."
While online, she also noticed that JoRetro, a store that specializes in Pyrex, midcentury furnishings and vintage household items, was located in nearby Havre de Grace.
"Later, when I walked into the store, I had one of those 'holy moly' moments. I had no idea how much Pyrex existed," Kracke says. She was smitten.
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Kracke is part of a resurgence of interest in midcentury style kitchenware and household furnishings, says JoRetro's owner, Jolene Forrester, 57.
"People like the clean lines and smaller scales," says Forrester. As for the resurging popularity of vintage Pyrex, she says, "it brings back great memories. Families had Sunday dinners, and people remember the big yellow bowl with Grandmother's potato salad in it."
Forrester, who grew up in Havre de Grace, says that JoRetro is named for her father, Joseph "Joe" Baldwin, whom she credits with passing the collector's gene to her. His weekly schedule always included a trip to the dump to scout for treasures.
"When he passed away, he left 50 boxes of beer and vintage barware," she says.
Forrester took the opportunity to open a booth in Havre de Grace's Bahoukas Antique Mall as a sideline to her then-career as a commercial interior designer. Today, she operates JoRetro, across the street from Bahoukas, full-time in a 1,700-square-foot, light-filled corner store.
Though Pyrex makes up a large part of the inventory, JoRetro brims with vintage clothing, greeting cards, linens, toys, luggage, books, glassware and aprons. Upcycled items created by local artists include bracelets made from souvenir spoons, pendants from watch parts and purses from unused quilting scraps.It is Forrester's Pyrex stock, however, that makes her store a destination, says another vintage aficionado, Jennifer Ralston, 60, who also lives in Havre de Grace.
Once a month, Fallston's Main Street becomes a booming home decor destination
"She has put the town on the map as a place where people will drive distances to shop for their collections," she says.
Forrester organizes seasonal Pyrex Fests, held on the last Saturdays of April and September, when as many as 1,000 people mingle with 40 vendors lining the sidewalks outside the store.
At JoRetro, Pyrex bowl sets can cost as little as $30 or as much as $180, depending on the rarity of the pattern. Casserole dishes range from $12 to $22.
Since stumbling upon JoRetro's Pyrex stock in search for her grandmother's pattern, Kracke has accumulated more than 50 different pieces in patterns such as Friendship, Amish Butterprint and Snowflakes. She also connects with fellow devotees on social media and once arranged for her husband, traveling on business in London, to purchase an English Pyrex bowl from a local collector.
"Midcentury design is a modernism that is clean and simple and so appealing," says Ralston. "It's like a piece of artwork in itself."