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After flood, Ellicott City shop worker becomes business owner

Left to right: Alex Williams, Mash Peele, Maureen Sweeney of the Ellicott City Partnership, Summer of Love owner Kitty Morgan, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Len Berkowitz of Great Panes of Main Street take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony for Morgan's new store.
Left to right: Alex Williams, Mash Peele, Maureen Sweeney of the Ellicott City Partnership, Summer of Love owner Kitty Morgan, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Len Berkowitz of Great Panes of Main Street take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony for Morgan's new store. (Baltimore Sun)

It was just last summer that Kitty Morgan stood on flood-damaged Main Street in Ellicott City with no home, no job and three cats.

She had managed to escape the worst of the floodwaters that destroyed Main Street by taking refuge in the fashion and accessory shop Zebop where she worked — and had a front-row seat to cars being thrown about as if they were in a whirlpool.

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She helped two other people to safety, and the three shared the last four percent of her cellphone's battery power to tell loved ones they might not make it out alive.

It would be her last shift at Zebop, the beloved shop that had been a staple on Main Street for decades. The owner of the store decided not to reopen.

After that fateful day in July, Morgan decided to turn her devastation into action.

On Saturday, the photographer celebrated the grand opening of her own store, Summer of Love, which she said preserves the "hippie culture and community" that Zebop brought to Main Street.

Morgan was home on a break from pursuing an acting career in New York last summer when the flood hit. She extended her visit to help the city rebuild.

"I could have run away and gone straight back up to New York," Morgan said. "But I knew my own sadness if the store disappeared, and I didn't want to see that happen to the community. That's why I was able to step up and not let something like this fizzle out and fade away."

Morgan drew from her experiences working at Zebop and tapped business owners who were preparing to reopen to devise a plan to open her own store just doors down from where Zebop had been.

Summer of Love sells many of the products Zebop did: fair-trade fashions from around the world, tapestry and home decor, soaps and essential oils. But Morgan plans to hold more events, such as "bring-your-own-guitar day."

"We want it to be a place where people can come together, share ideas, make art," she said.

Morgan said she was inspired by her younger brother, Rod Gnarley, a DJ and musician. She said Zebop was a hub for artists like him who came from all walks of life and shared a passion.

"I'm so eternally proud of her," Gnarley said. "After everything that had happened, there was going to be a void there, and she didn't want to allow that tragedy to carry through. It's neat that this is kind of a phoenix from the ashes."

Autumn Hentrich, who shopped at Zebop for 25 years, said she was ecstatic that Morgan was resurrecting its spirit. She said Zebop represented the best of Ellicott City.

"It really has been a place where there's a lot of different types of people, and a lot of love," Hentrich said. "Kitty's shop is a rebirth in a way. It really is symbolic of Ellicott City coming back to life again."

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