TownMall is set to reopen Friday, June 19, after being closed for three months because of the coronavirus, but art studio COB51 won’t be among the businesses resuming operations.
The “COB” in the name of the studio owned by Lisa Martin stands for “Create Outside the Box,” something she said she had to lean on recently in order for her small business to survive.
She is moving her shop to Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Five years ago, COB51 Art Studio opened at 51 East Main Street in downtown Westminster, and gave its customers a do-it-yourself, boutique approach along with being able to host off-site events such as birthday parties and restaurant paint nights. Martin said her facility outgrew its Main Street digs in three years, and decided to agree to TownMall of Westminster’s offer to join its business lineup.
Martin said the price was right, and the space was larger than the Main Street location. But COB51 lost that small-town feel, she said, by being an indoor shopping mall.
“We had big windows on Main Street, and a front door that I could open and hear the traffic, and the breeze, and you lose all of that,” said Martin, whose idea was to return to her original style before being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
COB51 Art Studio closed in mid-March, along with the rest of the TownMall establishments after an executive order by Gov. Larry Hogan designed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, with no clear vision about the fate of their businesses.
“I started thinking, I can’t keep going on like this. I can’t stay closed,” she said. “So I started just thinking outside the box.”
Martin, 47, said she couldn’t find a new Westminster location that suited her. She landed on a spot on Carlisle Street in Hanover, closer to where she lives. Martin said COB51′s grand opening is set for Aug. 1.
She called it a “no-brainer transition” to make the move ― the new location is all but ready to go, Martin said, minus a few touch-ups in the next month-plus.
“I’m not out to make a million dollars; I want to give something to the community and stay above water,” Martin said. “And most of our business is evening-weekend-kids kind of thing. I’m not making money eight hours a day, every day, so I’ve got to pair that with what I can afford.”
Martin said TownMall of Westminster, which along with all Maryland malls closed on Hogan’s orders March 19, allowed its tenants a two-month deferment on rent, if businesses applied for it, during the pandemic. There was no free period, Martin said.
TownMall is set to reopen June 19 at 5 p.m. The mall’s temporary hours, according to its website, are scheduled as Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday.
Hours for the mall’s anchor stores may vary, according to the website.
TownMall general manager Robyn Clark said in a statement several hand sanitizing stations will be in place for shoppers, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines will be followed.
“Each store will be making their own decision on the best time to open,” Clark said in the statement, and “safe social distancing will be practiced and stores will post occupancy limits.”
Martin, an Annapolis native who graduated from Westminster High School in 1990, said she worked as a medic for 15 years before choosing to retire because of some health issues. A lifelong artist, Martin started COB51 as a way to get her community involved.
Her studio has worked with The Shepherd’s Staff, a Westminster-based private nonprofit, with its annual Empty Bowls event. The 2020 plans were dashed because of the pandemic, but Martin said COB51 will return to help next year and beyond.
“Westminster and Carroll County have been wonderful,” Martin said, who took to her business’ Facebook page Monday morning to express her gratitude. “They have supported me for five years, the customers are great. ...
"I was very sad to leave, but hopefully Hanover is not too far for folks to come.”