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Turf Valley extends 'lifesaving gesture' to Ellicott City's displaced merchants

Jodye Russell's Main Street business, Vintage Vault, was inundated with six feet of water during the Ellicott City flood. She says that there aren't enough words in the "language of thanks" for the owners of Turf Valley Resort, who have opened up five conference rooms (pictured here) to be used by displaced Main Street merchants.
Jodye Russell's Main Street business, Vintage Vault, was inundated with six feet of water during the Ellicott City flood. She says that there aren't enough words in the "language of thanks" for the owners of Turf Valley Resort, who have opened up five conference rooms (pictured here) to be used by displaced Main Street merchants.(Lisa Philip / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Pete Mangione, whose family has owned and operated the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City for the past 37 years, cannot imagine what it would be like to wake up and realize his business was gone.

So opening up five conference rooms at the resort to Main Street business owners abruptly displaced by the July 30 flash flood in Ellicott City was the least that his family could do, he said.

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Ten merchants have taken up the offer and are selling their merchandise at "Main Street at Turf Valley" every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the holidays.

"They would have done the same for me," Mangione said.

Angel Detoro, who often visited Main Street before the flood and stopped by Turf Valley last week, said, “I wanted to come down and just show my support because I miss them terribly."
Angel Detoro, who often visited Main Street before the flood and stopped by Turf Valley last week, said, “I wanted to come down and just show my support because I miss them terribly."(Lisa Philip / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

For Jodye Russell, owner of Vintage Vault and Gallery, which was flooded with six feet of water, there aren't enough words in "the language of thanks" for the Mangione family's "lifesaving gesture," she said.

"Not only from the point of view of continuing to operate, but just continuing to function," she said. "It gets us up and gets us dressed and gets us out every day ... at a really hard time for all of us in our lives."

Walking from one conference room to the next, customers come across a variety of goods, from homemade spreads and honey sticks sold by Donna Sanger of Park Ridge Trading Company, to sparkling crystal jewelry available from Russell's shop, to teak boxes inlaid with intricate patterns of mother of pearl sold by Khaldoun Alghatrif of the Syriana Gallery.

Alghatrif, who moved to Ellicott City from Qatar last November, opened his business on Main Street three months before the flood hit.

"It really was a hard time for me to see that I was going to close that soon," he said.

On Friday, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Cunningham unveiled the painting, which they hailed as a symbol of a community coming together in the

He looked for other ways to sell his merchandise without much success.

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"I tried online, but the kind of handicrafts we do — people love to see it, love to touch it, more than seeing it online," Alghatrif said. "So when I hear that Turf Valley is offering us the space, I thought this is what we needed. And yeah, we're happy to be back and see the customers again."

Russell said that the merchants' opening weekend at Turf Valley three weeks ago was the busiest so far, but customers were still trickling in during the third weekend of sales.

"So many of our tried and true customers that always love to come into our stores have come by to give us encouragement and hugs and support," she said.

Angela Detoro, who works in Woodstock and recently moved there from Alexandria, is one such customer.

When she was commuting from Virginia to Woodstock for work, Detoro said, she would often head to Main Street after work to eat dinner or shop while avoiding rush hour traffic.

"I'm not a box store or mall shopper, and so Ellicott City was the perfect location to go and look for a birthday present, Christmas gifts and also a wonderful place to take family and friends when they were in town visiting," she said.

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Her last visit to Main Street a few weeks prior to the flood was "very vivid," Detoro said, because it was an afternoon spent shopping with her sister who was visiting from Tennessee.

The county's emergency response strategy, signed into law by executive order in June last year, was put to the test after the Ellicott City flood, drawing in "a whole universe of people who put in nights and weekends to keep things moving," said Ryan Miller, director of the county's Office of Emergency Management.

"She and I had literally been in the changing rooms of Sweet Elizabeth Jane's and had tried on clothes," she said, referring to a Main Street shop devastated by the flood. "The pictures from that location — it was just surreal."

Detoro found out about the setup at Turf Valley from an artist who sells her paintings at the Vintage Vault.

"I wanted to come down and just show my support because I miss them terribly," she said. "I didn't realize how much time I spent there ... and money!"

Other customers have come to see what Russell calls her "survivor collection," consisting of jewelry from the Vintage Vault that Russell and her husband found after the flood.

"When we got back into our building, many of the cases of jewelry were just gone out to the river. They just flew out the door," she said. "So we spent days on hands and knees going through the muck, with gloves and knee pads and masks, to try to feel every piece of muck and slime and sand that was in the store, to try to retrieve these pieces."

She points at the trays of necklaces, brooches, earrings and rings laid across her tables at Turf Valley.

"We want people to know that not only are these old pieces of jewelry that have had a life and a past, but they've also got survival instincts," she said. "And they're here to remind us that life can be very challenging, but beating the odds is sometimes entirely possible."

The Main Street at Turf Valley shops are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. For more up-to-date information, call 410-465-1500. The Vintage Vault is accepting donations of vintage and antique jewelry, the proceeds of which will go toward employing those who lost their jobs as a result of the Ellicott City flood.

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