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Ellicott City businesses adapt to stay open during outbreak

Posted at 7:08 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 19:08:09-04

ELLICOTT CITY, Md (WMAR) — It's unfortunately not something new to Ellicott City: businesses have to close down indefinitely for reasons out of their control, but what some owners can control, adapting their business models to stay open and keep paying their hard-working employees.

Park Ridge Creamery off Lot D is serving up pints only to limit exposure.

"Not only to continue to support my staff and obviously to pay our bills, but also to provide a little bit of happiness to the community. I mean it’s ice cream," said owner Julia Sanger.

Sanger said the community has really rallied to support them, clearing out their stock every day they've been open.

"Every time I come down here, people very respectfully line up 6 feet apart, but they are out here and they are supporting us and honestly
I couldn’t ask for anything more because this is one of the times when we aren’t the only ones in this boat," said Sanger.

Just down the street, Phoenix Upper main is adapting too, open for curbside pick up.

"We’d be glad to take your order and run the food out to your car," said owner Mark Hemmis.

For other Ellicott City business owners, it's not the first or even second time they've had to close down indefinitely over the last four years.

"It feels a little surreal," said Sanger.

The town has rebuilt twice after devastating floods. May will mark two years since the last.

"It was really starting to get to a point of being the awesome time of year for the town and I was really excited about all the events that were planned and things like that. It was great forward progress and once again it’s come to a screeching halt," said Sanger.

As part of flood mitigation efforts, the Howard County Government bought the original Phoenix Emporium building at the bottom of Main Street. Hemmis just opened up the new Phoenix Upper Main location last month in the old Ellicott Mill Brewing Company location.

After joining staff from both restaurants, he now has double the people to think about during this crisis and keeping money coming in to pay them is his main priority.

"We have a food pantry here for my employees so we’ve got milk, bread, eggs, butter," said Hemmis. "I kept my entire staff through two floods at the Phoenix Emporium. I want to keep this entire staff through this crisis at Phoenix Upper Main."

He and Sanger both acknowledge that this time around, it's much bigger than just Main Street.

"This is a worldwide crisis. This doesn’t just affect our neighborhood or our community, our state or even our country. I have a high school senior who won’t go to prom," said Hemmis.

They want people to stay safe and if they can, shop small in general, whether it's in Ellicott City or at another business in need.

"Small businesses right now need all the support that they can get," said Sanger.

The creamery will have limited hours on the weekends, updated on their Facebook page, along with pint flavors and any pre-order information.

The Phoenix is open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Several other Main Street restaurants have carry-out options as well.

"We know how hard this is and even for the new businesses in town that came in post-flood, this is really difficult for them and I think in some ways we can be a resource to them to be able to say, 'Okay here’s how you move on to plan B' or 'Here’s what you might need to do for awhile'," said Sanger.