Hop onto Northern Parkway and scoot west to Liberty Road, then turn right. There's Liberty Auto Body Shop. Now jump back onto Northern Parkway east to Belair Road. Hang a left, and there's Overlea Caterers.
Two Baltimore County businesses, separated by miles of pavement and serving very different clienteles.
But now, they have one thing in common: Both are benefiting from a new county program that provides interest-free loans to small businesses that want to make big improvements.
The body shop and caterer are among the first five businesses to get checks from the program, part of a broad effort to bring new life to businesses and homes in older neighborhoods.
"The improvements we help stimulate with our commercial revitalization loans strengthen our small businesses and improve the appearance of commercial corridors in our established communities," County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said yesterday.
The terms: loans up to $10,000, to be repaid in five years in installments of $2,000. No interest is charged, just a $50 processing fee for each year the loan is outstanding, for a maximum of $250.
So far, loans totaling $49,500 have been made to the five businesses. More than $100,000 remains for others.
"We hope we can make it grow," David Fields, director of the Office of Community Conservation, said of the Commercial Revitalization Program. "The idea is that if it does work, we can build on it."
At Liberty Auto, owner Pascal Hong will use the $10,000 to build a cinder-block wall. It will replace a rickety fence that has done little to keep vandals from trespassing, snatching batteries and knocking out car windows.
"I'm a little sick and tired of vandals," Hong said, peering through the fence that will soon fall. "I'm going to tear this down and put up a wall."
The wall also will be more attractive, improving the neighborhood.
"It will civilize the place," Hong said. "Right now that raggedy fence is nothing at all. It looks like a junkyard. So I'm going to make it look better."
At Overlea Caterers, President Michael Stappler is using the money to help beautify a back parking lot with a colorful retaining wall.
"It's a good idea," Stappler said, walking the grounds as a construction crew installed stones. "There's a good relationship between the community and the businesses and the local government. I'd like to see it expand."
At Ridgeway Automotive in Catonsville, owners Jeff and Jeanne Holden are using their $10,000 to blacktop the parking lot -- the finishing touch to a business face lift begun years ago.
"This is a lot of money," Jeanne Holden said. "This has given us an opportunity to improve our building. The blacktopping really just makes it look sharp."
Pub Date: 8/03/96