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The Leader Who Runs a Shop at the Corner of Hope and Community

March 1, 2022
If you told a young Patty Leaverton who was “minding my own business” running her own advertising agency in North Carolina that one day she would be managing a hospital gift shop in the middle of Baltimore County, she would have assumed you had your Tarheels on backward.

And she would have been wrong. Patty has been a fixture at The Corner Shop at GBMC since 2012, as synonymous with the store as the eclectic, affordable gifts she meticulously selects each season. She has a tiny office that sits empty because she learns much more from being out on the floor. It shows in her offerings, her attention to detail, and the feeling patrons get when they walk in the shop.
Patty Leaverton, manager of The Corner Shop at GBMC
Patty Leaverton, manager of The Corner Shop at GBMC

“This is a place where people need to come to get away, to hang out, to treat themselves because they got a good mammogram, or they rang the bell and they’re done with their treatments, or our price points are good. This is a fun place to shop,” Patty said. “And if I can give the nurses and other employees—particularly now—a fun place to come and look at pretty things and not have to stop at Target on the way home to get their kid’s friend’s birthday present, that impacts their stress level. I want everybody that walks in this door to feel valued.”

Creating attractive and appealing places to shop is not a new endeavor for Patty. In her hometown, she was a buyer for a small shop and eventually worked her way up to buying and opening stores for Hecht’s (now Macy’s). When the game got too rough, she switched to advertising, which is where she met her second husband, Ron Leaverton. The former WBAL-TV reporter swept her off her feet and across multiple state lines where she settled in Hunt Valley with her two young sons.

Later, when her younger son was diagnosed with cancer a month after his 18th birthday, she came to GBMC.

“He’s right as rain now, but that’s the reason I’m here,” Patty said. “Let’s face it, there’s a lot of joy but a lot of sorrow in a hospital setting and so when people can come into the shop and their loved one is having an infusion and they tell me their story, I tell them my story about my son who was so successfully treated, and it gives people hope. I firmly believe I’m here for a reason.”

Patty interviewed with the GBMC Volunteer Office in April 2012 to volunteer in Infusion Therapy. When the team found out she had a retail background, they mentioned the current Corner Shop manager was looking to hang up her apron after 20 years and would Patty be interested in taking over.

Patty’s son, Ethan, was treated in 2009, and before she made it back to GBMC to volunteer, she also lost Ron and her father within five months of each other. The idea of returning to something safe and comfortable felt stabilizing after all that change.

“It was such a series of blows that just kind of left me reeling to be honest with you,” Patty said. “The thought of running my own store again had a lot of appeal to me because I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I wanted something I could embrace, something I knew I could do well and sink my teeth into. Six months later, the opportunity came up and now, nine years later, here I am.”

Patty manages a team of volunteers and is proud of the partnership they have created together. Volunteers have their hands in every part of the process from unpacking boxes and labeling items to stocking shelves.

“Every volunteer is here because they have that volunteer heart, and they want to be here,” she said.

“I’m so full of pride about the way that we really do treat everyone the way we would want to be treated. It’s so rewarding to be able to extend that kind of care and know we make a difference.”

Patrons love knowing they make a difference as well. It brings Patty joy to let patrons know their purchases go directly to support patient care. She has even seen some set down purchases and come back in to do another round of shopping just because it means supporting their doctors and their community hospital.

“They love knowing that this money goes back to their own loved ones because most of the time their loved ones are being treated here, their doctors are here, their babies were born here. It’s just such a lovely circle,” Patty said.

With Patty’s knowledge, expertise, and work ethic, she has been able to increase annual profits by a third, which comes from a willingness to experiment. Over the years, she has added new merchandise such as women’s apparel, men’s gifts, Ravens and Orioles merchandise, and a wider selection of baby items. She focuses on finding items that are special, fun, and different but also at the right price point.

“Knowing when people walk in I can surprise them with things they didn’t think they could get here is why I love coming to work every day,” Patty said.

Exceptional customer service is at the heart of The Corner Shop. Whether it’s putting together a care package for someone in Michigan whose loved one is an inpatient to offering payroll deduction for employees so they can conveniently purchase items with the swipe of a badge, Patty makes it her mission to offer quality, convenience, and—most of all—fun.

Next time, stop at The Corner Shop on the way to visit someone or a doctor. Tell Patty thanks—thanks for not listening to young Patty and for bringing her talents and kindness to GBMC.
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