EDITORIAL FROM THE AEGIS
1:16 PM EST, November 23, 2012
The collective lament regarding the lack of sit-down restaurants expressed recently at a meeting of the Edgewood Community Council is understandable, but not one that can be addressed by the county government – or any other government, for that matter – at least not directly.
Art Helton, a former state senator and, more recently, a regular candidate for public office in Harford County, was joined by Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie and Community Council Chairman Jansen Robinson in expressing a desire to see restaurants within easy driving distance of the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground. Such businesses, Helton noted, could target the large contingent of relatively highly paid personnel working on post: "Some of them are doctors and highly skilled physicians and they're looking for amenities better than what's currently out there."
Guthrie went on to note that Clarence's Taste of New Orleans, a rather high end eatery that was opened in the aftermath of the Louisiana Katrina disaster by a refugee chef from the Crescent City, closed its doors for good earlier this year and no one showed up to bid on the facility when it went to auction.
Thus was eliminated a bright spot on the Edgewood culinary scene. Certainly others remain: Giovanni's on Route 40 has long been a destination spot, as have other places in the larger Edgewood-Joppa area. Unfortunately, however, fine dining opportunities are hardly on the ascent in the area, even though it is one of Harford County's major population centers, even though it is in close proximity to where some of the most well-compensated people in the county work and even though the greater Edgewood-Joppa area boasts some pretty nice waterfront scenery.
Councilman Guthrie's comments about Clarence's Taste of New Orleans closing was not only an example of the problem, but also a solid indication of why there's a problem, namely that if entrepreneurs don't feel like they can make money opening a restaurant – or any other business – at a particular location, they're going to look elsewhere. If restaurants are few and far between at a particular location, then that location isn't likely to see more restaurants open. It seems counter-intuitive, but restaurants (and, curiously, antique shops) tend to be more successful in places where there are a lot of other restaurants (or antique shops). Baltimore's Little Italy and Fells Point are examples in the region and, in Harford County, Havre de Grace is something of a small scale example.
In the case of Havre de Grace, the lament 25 or so years ago in the local business community was comparable to what's being heard these days in Edgewood. It didn't change overnight. Though there had long been mainstays like The Bayou on Route 40, it took years of fits and starts for places such as the Golden Crab and The Bank to try and fail before being replaced by Tidewater Grille, MacGregor's, Coakley's, Chiapparelli's, La Cucina, Laurrapin Grille, et al. as ground zero for a burgeoning night life trade.
While the Havre de Grace city government did some active promoting to encourage such businesses, what it really comes down to is one or two eateries drawing more people than they can feed, which draws more crowds. That kind of thing is really up to a few savvy investors who know how to cook and who are able to stick it out until they establish equally solid reputations and clientele.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun