As cleanup continues on Ellicott City’s Main Street a month after the town was hit by its second deadly flood in less than two years, business owners continue the painstaking process of deciding whether to reopen in the historic district.
Nearly 60 businesses have decided to return to the popular shopping and restaurant district, according to Maureen Sweeney Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Ellicott City Partnership.
Nineteen businesses have said they won’t return, she said.
Businesses not returning to Main Street include several that fought to reopen after the 2016 flood, such as the coffee shop the Bean Hollow, All Time Toys and HorseSpirit Gallery.
Thirty-two businesses are still undecided on their plans. Smith said many of them were awaiting word on possible grant money to help reopen, other available spaces they could move to and the plans of their fellow business owners.
Ellicott City Partnership held a luncheon with roughly 80 of the businesses on Friday to discuss strategies and how to decide whether to reopen. Smith said the goal of the meeting was to “talk it out” with owners and help decide what was best for each.
All Time Toys owner Jason Barnes announced via his store’s Facebook account on May 31 that he would not be returning to Main Street, where the store has been since 2006. The decision, Barnes said Friday, was one he made out of financial and moral concerns about his store and its customers.
“My customer base is really loyal, but I’m not inviting them to a place that’s dangerous,” he said.
Barnes is in the midst of leasing a new space for his store in Carroll County near its border with Howard County and hopes to reopen in August.
While his hope is to one day return to Main Street, Barnes said he needs assurance, and details, from the county on its flood mitigation plans and what the town will look like in the future. Barnes watched Thursday night’s Ellicott City town hall via Facebook, and said he was struck by County Executive Allan Kittleman’s words that the severity and frequency of flooding in the town is its “new normal.”
“There’s too much uncertainty. What is Ellicott City going to be, is there anything to stop all this?” Barnes said. “Last flood put me to the brink, this one might have put me over, and if I can actually survive this I can’t do it a third time.”
Sun Pacylowski, owner of Precious Gifts, wants to return to Main Street, but said she’s unsure whether she’ll be able to stay in her current space. She is still awaiting estimates on the cost to rebuild cabinets and shelving in her store and whether she’d be able to do so and still afford her lease.
Pacylowski’s husband John Pacylowski died in September 2016 while trying to fix damage their building sustained in the July 2016 flood. The two had owned the store for more than 25 years.
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“Right now my heart and my brain [are] not working together,” she said. “My heart says ‘stay, stay, stay,’ [but] my brain might say ‘it’s not going to work for you, [you] have to do something.’ But at the moment my heart is winning.”
Ellicott City Partnership’s list of shop and restaurants’ decision statuses continues to change as shops decide their plans, but as of June 29, here’s what they’ve decided: