After seven years as the economic development director and main street manager for the town of Sykesville, Ivy Wells is leaving the position she helped create to become the main street manager for the town of Berlin, Md.
It wasn't an easy decision to make. Since settling in Sykesville in 1995, Wells has watched Main Street blossom with new businesses and events, and is proud she played a role in its success.
"Sykesville was thirsty for improvement," Wells recalled, of her start seven years ago. "I wanted to do more events downtown, focus events on Main Street to help businesses."
To encourage people to visit Main Street, Wells organized the Sykesville Main Street Association, a group of volunteers and local business owners.
Together, the organization started First Friday concerts and a farmers' market.
They helped organize a Fine Art and Wine Festival in the spring and a Chili Cook Off and Beer Festival in the fall.
By creating Merry Main Street, a full afternoon of holiday events was added to Santa's traditional evening arrival and tree lighting.
Two years ago, the Sykesville Main Street Association took over the town's popular Fall Festival. While the event, which has been around for more than 40 years, is traditionally the same, Wells has added more local acts, children's activities and seating.
"I started this movement to get people down here," said Wells, who has watched concerts in the park grow from 30 people attending to more than 300.
After doing research, Wells started the Sykesville Ghosts and Legends tours. In February, an episode of the Destination America show "Monsters and Mysteries in America" featured the 'Sykesville Monster' – a beast seen in the woods of the town as far back in the 1970s.
Wells also encouraged the business owners to meet together and host their own events. "You have to meet as a group to see what each is doing," she said. "They can sell each other."
"Ivy has always been so very, very good as the middle person between the town and the businesses," said Helene Taylor, of French Twist Cafe of Main Street that offers, besides crepes and coffee drinks, candles made by the store across the street.
"'We are so sad," Taylor said. "They are very lucky to have her."
"I'm going to miss her," said Sonny Leonardi, of E.W. Beck's Restaurant on Main Street. "I enjoyed working with her on things."
Currently, there are no vacancies on Sykesville's Main Street, and it is filled with unique shops, an antique store, a book store and more, Wells said.
With plans underway to convert the Warfield Complex into a mixed-use area offering housing, retail and employment campuses, Wells is confident that Sykesville's Main Street will continue to thrive.
"I don't think they should be worried at all," Wells said of Main Street merchants. "Main Street is not just a one-stop; people come to Main Street to eat and find things here they are not going to find anywhere else."
Wells also worked to get recycling bins on Main Street for the first time and new trash cans. A community garden planted near the Town House has been a success, too, with a rain barrel on the Town House providing water for it. There are also two composting bins in use.
"I really cared about the businesses and wanted them to succeed," Wells said. "They were like my children and I wanted ..good things for them."
Wells said the offer from Berlin was irresistible. "I would be a fool not to take it; it is a great opportunity," Wells said, of her future position as Main Street Manager in Berlin. "I'm a bicyclist, I love to bike and biking on the Eastern Shore, there is no comparison. It's flat!"
The beach and boating are also big attractions. "I can work and play in the same place," she said.