Despite Kepnes' enthusiasm, not all of the merchants along Main Street are supportive of the market.

At a recent meeting of Ellicott City's Historic District Partnership, some said they were concerned that traffic was deterring customers from visiting their shops.

"Saturday is the one day that's vital to the businesses," said Sally Tennant, who owns Discoveries on lower Main Street. "Having anything that's contrary to the interests of the business community unnecessarily may make the difference" between a thriving business and a struggling one.

"Normally, on a nice Saturday, I open at 11 and I start right away," said Sara Arditti, who owns Still Life Gallery in midtown. "[On a recent market Saturday], I did not make a single sale until 1:30 in the afternoon. This is affecting my bottom line and the bottom line of other merchants in this town."

Arditti said a petition she circulated among Main Street merchants had collected 31 signatures opposing the Saturday market.

Other merchants, however, said their businesses had seen more traffic since the market opened.

"As long as the farmers market is going on, we're going to need another person working on Saturday morning," said Tammy Beideman, who owns Sweet Elizabeth Jane on lower Main Street. "I looked at my transaction total, and we were up."

Some merchants urged Kepnes to move the market to the courthouse parking lot or to move it to another day. But Kepnes said that would defeat the purpose of trying to get residents to patronize the historic district.

"This is about residents wanting to be part of the community and the community people coming to town," she said.

Matthew Milani, who owns The Rumor Mill in Tiber Alley, said merchants should use the market as an opportunity to be proactive.

"[Kepnes] is bringing people to town," he said. "Go out there, greet them and get them."

In response to merchant complaints and to dilute traffic, Kepnes recently decided to move some of the market's vendors across the street to the Wine Bin's parking lot. She said she hoped splitting parking among two lots would help ease any problems, as well as encourage customers to get walking down Main Street.

Steve Lafferty, director of special projects for Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning, said parking data showed Ellicott City's lots D and F have been near capacity the past few market Saturdays, but, he noted, lots were also full or near full later in the afternoon, even after the market had closed.

"I think it's hard to say it was solely attributable to the market's activity," he said of the traffic.

'This is the future'

Shoppers and merchants interviewed at the market focused on the goods and atmosphere.

Keefe and Heather Hogan, who recently moved to Ellicott City from Bowie, brought their two kids, Aiden, 9, and Layla, 5, to the market with them for the second week in a row.

"I know that as the season grows, it's going to grow. I think it's a great way to bring people out," Keefe Hogan said.

Debbie Derwart and Barbara Costello, both of Ellicott City, were drawn by the promise of live music.

"I think it's a wonderful service that Ellicott City does for the community," Derwart said. "We're really lucky to have this."