A new Irish-American pub opened yesterday in east Columbia's Long Reach Village Center, and its owners hope it will add vitality to the struggling shopping plaza and its community.
"We want this to be a community center," said Floyd Markowitz, 47, co-owner of the new pub, Dodder and Poddle, named after two rivers that flow into Dublin and provide water to the famed Guiness Brewery.
He and co-owner, Jerry Keith, 48, will offer authentic Irish foods, American foods and games. They also plan to have live entertainment, including classic rock, blues and traditional Irish bands.
The pub opens as some Long Reach residents and community leaders are worried over the future of the 21-year-old village center in wake of the Rouse Co.'s announcement of a new $45 million "power center," the Chalice shopping center, to open nearby off Route 175.
For years, neighbors have complained that the Long Reach center was overlooked and in desperate need of improvement to draw new merchants. They say the center's anchor store, a Safeway, is obsolete and can't compete with more modern village centers.
"I don't like the grocery store there," said Long Reach resident David Ross, 35. "It's pretty old and the selection is not very good." In stead, Mr. Ross drives 10 to 15 minutes to the Dorsey's Search Village Center to buy groceries. There is one vacancy in the village center, a spot left vacant when a photo shop closed last month. More space will be available Aug. 28 when First Fidelity Bank closes its 20-year-old branch.
The bank's departure will leave 19 businesses in the 120,500-square-foot center, said Cathy Lickteig, a spokeswoman for the Rouse Co.'s subsidiary, Columbia Management Inc., which manages Columbia's village centers.By year's end, Ms. Lickteig predicted, two major merchants -- whose names she wouldn't disclose -- will help fill up the center's vacant space.
"All of the village centers have a life cycle -- a cycle before they need to be renewed," Ms. Lickteig said. "Long Reach is in its need-to-be-renewed cycle."
She said that by 1997 the village center will undergo a major renovation, including plans to expand Safeway.
As Columbia has developed over the past 28 years, residents have gone from doing much of their shopping at its villager centers to patronizing much newer and larger retail complexes, such as the planned Chalice project.
Sarah B. Uphouse, the Long Reach Village Center's manager, said the Rouse Co. has assured the village board the Chalice project will not have a grocery or liquor store that would compete with businesses in the village center. But she believes the village center cannot avoid being affected by Chalice's development.
Ms. Uphouse welcomes the Irish-American pub, which is filling a spot vacated by Sneakers sports saloon.
"It's really the first step in doing major changes in the village center," Ms. Uphouse said.
The pub's owners, Mr. Keith and Mr. Markowitz, are eager to make a success of the village center location. "We felt with all the new housing going up in the area that it would be a prime location," said Mr. Keith, a longtime basketball coach at Wilde Lake High School, who formerly worked at a Wilde Lake village bar, J. K.'s Pub.
Mr. Markowitz is working full time in the new venture, after quitting his job at AT&T; after 24 years.
Inside the cozy pub, there's seating for 85 patrons, 11 TV screens for sports enthusiasts and photos of such athletes as former Orioles' Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer. "Neither of us is looking to become millionaires," Mr. Markowitz said. "We just want to earn an honest living."