NewsRegionHoward County


Ellicott City's Main St to reopen, causing a split between businesses open & those still rebuilding

Posted at 7:03 PM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 19:05:50-04

After weeks working to recover from devastating flooding, Ellicott City's Phoenix Emporium will be back open. 

"It's a relief," owner Mark Hemmis said. "The ability to get some of my staff back to work and give them an opportunity to make a living is really the driving force behind."

The second floor will open up as a bar Thursday night. It's the only business on lower Main St. even close to opening back up, and joins dozens farther up the hill. For them, business has been tough with part of the street still closed down.

"With Main St. closed, it really blocks off us from the Ellicott City side and the top of the hill is experiencing the reverse of the problems," Hemmis said. 

But those problems are going away. Friday, the county is reopening the whole road, creating new problems though for the handful of businesses still trying to rebuild. 

"I know that there's a log of people who aren't happy about the street being open," lower Main St business owner Julia Sanger. 

The county delayed opening the road once, at the request of businesses still working.

“We wanted to make sure that the residents, businesses and merchants on the lower end of Main Street had the opportunity to safely secure their buildings,” County Executive Allan Kittleman. “We’ve worked hard to reasonably balance their needs with those of the businesses that have already reopened. We feel we can now safely reopen the entire street and our police officers will continue to have a round-the-clock visible presence.”

Sanger says it will significantly delay her target date to open back up, October 1st, because there will only be short-term parking outside her store. 

"If we can't have trucks that are able to park outside the store and pour concrete ro unload dry wall or anything like that, I don't know how we can get anything done," Sanger said. 

On top of that, Sanger says it's just not safe.

"You've got buildings that are boarded up. You've got construction going on outside. You've got buildings on the verge of being condemned and they are essentially open," Sanger said. "It’s not a place for people and I think a lot of people don’t realize that because there was been so much talk about businesses are open, Main Street is reopening, everybody come down, and that’s great for the top of the hill because that’s the case and we want people up there, but it’s not a place for people right now."

At different stages of rebuilding, both Sanger adn Hemmis share the same goal-- to see Ellicott City return in all its vibrancy. 

"The road opening is good for my business. The road opening is bad for some other peoples businesses and they are friends and customers and people that this town needs to get back open," Hemmis said. "There’s frustrations on both ends. The town needs to reopen but there needs to be some kind of accommodations for getting these people what they need."

"It doesn’t make any of this any easier to have conflicting interests but it is hard and we don’t feel like we are being selfish by any means. It’s just a matter of us trying to rebuild our livelihoods and protect ourselves," Sanger said. "I don’t want people to think that we don’t want them down here because absolutely, for the stores and restaurants that are open, please come shop, but this notion of Main Street’s back. It’s not."

The Phoenix will be open Thursday through Sunday at 7 p.m. as a bar, except Friday when they will open early to coincide with Main Street reopening at 5. They hope to serve food in two weeks and open the bottom floor in 6 weeks.