Bel Air residents and visitors have a few grand openings to look forward to in the coming year.
Although small business owners on Main Street and greater Bel Air are feeling the effects of the economic downturn, Town Director of Economic Development Trish Heidenreich said Thursday the town has been doing "amazingly well."
"We have really low vacancy rates," she said, referring to the few empty storefronts on Main Street and Bond Street.
Compared to the region, she reiterated, Bel Air is doing fairly well. As the director of economic development for the Town of Bel Air, Heidenreich said, businesses have approached the department in the past to inquire about moving to Bel Air.
"There's a possibility of seeing a few vacancies fill up in the next four to five months," she added.
A few of these businesses have confirmed their moves, including Safe Harbors Travel Group, which will be filling a vacancy on the second floor of 126 S. Main St.
Safe Harbors President Jay Ellenby said in early August that the company was in the process of relocating and expected to be moving within a couple of weeks. Safe Harbors was in downtown Baltimore for approximately 20 years before moving to a location in Owings Mills.
Now they are locating to Main Street, he added, because they "saw the good things going on in Bel Air."
These good things, he said, include changes from BRAC and other "community activities."
Safe Harbors Travel Group is different from the average agency, Ellenby said, because it is a corporate travel agency with a humanitarian edge.
The agency not only helps corporations plan travel, which Ellenby said will "fill a void" in this area, but offers a ministry and humanitarian division as well. Safe Harbors holds special contracts with airlines that allow for up to 45 percent in savings off the everyday publish or online rate, specifically for mission trips.
They went that way because it was a "business opportunity," Ellenby said, later adding they "thought it would be a good direction to go."
Since they announced the move, he said, several people have congratulated the company, which is planning for an October grand opening.
October will be a busy month overall for the Town of Bel Air, with the new Chinese restaurant The Orient Chinese Cuisine & Sushi Bar also scheduled to open during the end of October, Heidenreich said. This is the third location for The Orient, with one in White Marsh and one in Perry Hall, she said.
"We're just very excited that they're here because we think that they're going to be a real asset to the town and to Main Street," she added.
Plus, The Orient plans to be open during dinnertime, which Heidenreich said she hopes will encourage other businesses along Main Street to extend their hours, if possible.
Having tried the food herself, Heidenreich called it "really good," saying if visitors like sushi and Chinese cuisine, they will be "really pleased."
In addition to the businesses that are coming, Heidenreich referenced a few that have moved in in the past couple months that visitors and residents can check out. These include Stratosphere Studio at 116-A S. Main St., new to Bel Air in July.
The studio, according to Heidenreich, specializes in web and graphic design.
Even though businesses have left Main Street in the past couple of years, other businesses have moved in to take their place and Bel Air has maintained an "excellent" 7 percent vacancy rate for the past several years, according to Heidenreich.