It’s a story about paint. It’s also a story about social media and, more importantly, a community, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said at a gathering among Main Street Ellicott City business owners Thursday at the Howard County Tourism and Promotion Welcome Center, celebrating the town’s victory as a finalist in the Benjamin Moore Main Street Matters Campaign.
“Any main street can use a fresh coat of paint, no matter how wonderful, how special it is,” he said. “But this is about a community coming together, about community pride.”
Ellicott City was named one of 20 finalists in the contest, which ran for six weeks this summer. Over the course of the campaign, nearly half a million votes were cast online for Main Streets across North America, word spreading through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
As a winner in the contest, Ellicott City will receive paint, stain and supplies so each façade, porch, railing and shutter on the Main Street businesses can get a universal face-lift. In the coming months, Ulman said, local Benjamin Moore representatives will consult with business owners and community members to get the painting done.
About 40 of those community members and business owners were on hand for the celebration — men and women who know first hand the morale boost a fresh coat of paint will give to the town.
“You know better than anyone the travesties and the challenges we have faced in the past years,” said County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who represents Ellicott City. “We’ve had wonderful times and we’ve had very challenging times with floods, snow, the (CSX) train derailment. The community has always come together to support each other and support the town. This is the perfect opportunity for us to come together over something joyful.”
The future for Ellicott City is bright, said Ed Lilley, welcome center manager and president of the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation, and now thanks to Benjamin Moore, colorful as well.
“We all know Ellicott City is good,” he said. “We are going to make it great.”
Loretta Moran, who owns the building that houses Joan Eve Antiques, said that Main Street already has such a great energy, and “making it even prettier” is important.
“When you clean something up, when you improve your surroundings, people have more pride in it,” she said. “It’s more inviting,”
Joan Shea-Cohen, of Joan Eve Antiques agreed, and said that a fresh coat of paint would push the charm of Ellicott City “over the top.”
Giving window shutters and trim a touch of paint every now and then is pretty standard maintenance, but to paint an entire street of buildings “all at once, that never happens,” said Sam Coyne, of Craig Coyne Jewelers.
“Things can get run down, like when we have to fight against floods,” he said. “Each time it happens, the water just takes everything down a notch. It’s hard to ‘pretty things up’ when you’re focused on shoveling mud out of the basement. This is going to help so much. It’ll heighten the awareness of our environment, and I think it will prompt people to more aggressively take care of their space and enjoy it.”
Zan Wilson, co-owner of The Obladi, thinks the publicity gained through the Benjamin Moore campaign — and the new paint job — will help Ellicott City in the long run.
“I think more people will drive through town, walk around, just to check it out,” she said. “They’ll see we really do have a cute downtown.”