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Johnny's Bistro among businesses not returning to Ellicott City after flood

The Ellicott City flood last summer marked the end of an era for Johnny's Bistro on Main. Owner Johnny Breidenbach said the restaurant will not re-open due to financial woes.

Johnny's Bistro opened at 8167 Main St. 10 years ago, becoming a popular hotspot for its sandwiches and paninis, pizza However, after the July 30 flood washed out the restaurant's interior, Breidenbach said his hopes of re-opening began to dwindle.

"I lost everything. Everything that took place there was pretty devastating," Breidenbach said. "When I was looking at it from a financial standpoint, it just wasn't going to work out."

The restaurateur said he originally intended to return to Main Street for another two years, but could not reach a shortened lease agreement with the landlord.

Johnny's Bistro joins a handful of businesses that will not be returning to Main Street, including the Rumor Mill Fusion Bar and Restaurant, which announced its decision last October.

Maureen Sweeney Smith, executive director for the Ellicott City Partnership, said other departed retailers and restaurants include Craig Coyne Jewelers and Cacao Lane.

Smith said Al Parsons, property owner of Cacao Lane and the Rumor Mill, will use the space for apartments. Parsons could not be reached for comment.

Some businesses heavily impacted by the flood have relocated elsewhere on the street, she said, such as Sweet Cascades Chocolatier, now located inside the Wine Bin; and Time Warp Media Video Games, now at the Mall in Columbia.

"We're really fortunate because FEMA told us we'd get about 25 percent of our businesses back and we're up to about 75 percent," Smith said. "We have 37 businesses that have opened up. There are only 10 that are not returning."

Mat About You was the first business to return on Aug. 23, while the Phoenix Emporium and Christian Science Reading Room recently re-opened. All Time Toys is slated to return on Jan. 21, Smith said, and Insights180 branding and design will re-open on Feb. 1.

"Our goal from the very beginning has been retention over recruitment. We want to help out as many people as we can," she said. "We also like to add to the retail mix. We're going to start recruiting for any properties that can't be filled."

In the near future, Smith said, Ellicott City will welcome Georgia Grace cafe and bakery as well as E.C. Pops gourmet popcorn to Main Street.

Although he is leaving his home away from home, Breidenbach said working on Main Street was a highlight of his life, making good food for good people.

"I'm certainly at retirement age, but I don't know right now what's in store for me," Breidenbach said. "I've always worked in the food business. When I wasn't in the kitchen cooking, I was always out talking to my customers. I really built some nice relationships and I will miss them. I will miss everyone; I appreciate their patronage."

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