Ellicott City’s historic district has long been a shopping and dining destination. But after the second major flood in two years, business owners are facing the difficult question of whether to rebuild — again.
The town, founded in 1772, was devastated by flash flooding in 2016, but many business owners operated under a common goal of restoring their businesses and the town to glory. Now, the prospect of whether to do so again — and so soon — is uncertain.
Two years ago, Gretchen Shuey rebuilt her ruined Main Street coffee shop, Bean Hollow Cafe, with the help of neighbors, who bridged the gap between what her insurance covered and her actual rebuilding costs.
But this time feels different, she said. While some business owners suffered only minor damage and others have already committed to rebuilding, a few, including Shuey, have said they would feel unsafe staying in the historic town. “I’ve been shocked at the number of people who are commenting to me, ‘We want you back in Ellicott City,’ and I just think: ‘How?’” she said.
Slowly, signs of life are returning to historic Ellicott City’s business district as some business owners reopen. The ClayGround pottery studio has been open since June 1. Linwood Boutique opened Tuesday with limited hours and Manor Hill Tavern will open Saturday.
Here is a collection, in no particular order, of business owners’ thoughts about the prospect of rebuilding Ellicott City once again. This will be updated.
Manor Hill Tavern: Manor Hill Tavern has been open since June 2 to serve free food and drinks to Main Street workers, residents and business owners. Owner Randy Marriner said the restaurant opened to the public at noon Saturday with a limited menu. It returned to its normal schedule and menu on Monday.
The restaurant has served hundreds of people in the last two weeks, Marriner said. Whether the restaurant is able to draw crowds now, he added, isn’t the priority.
“We need to show that the town is alive. We’ve been open to feed the town, now we need to start to draw some folks to the town,” he said.
The pub had recently been closing early, at 8 p.m., but a crowd of people who showed up to buy $20 #ECStrong charity tulip glasses and drink the brewery’s beer kept Manor Hill open a little later on a recent night, general manager Nicholas Thompson said.
“You can do last call if you want,” the manager recalled telling the bartender.
Linwood Boutique: Linwood Boutique opened June 12 with limited hours. Leah Kable, who oversees the Linwood Boutique, said that while she’s happy to be open, it feels a bit “eerie” without her neighbors on Main Street.
Linwood Boutique provides employment and training for individuals with autism and Kable said a major reason they reopened was to provide “consistency” for the store’s 12 employees.
After three days, the store had served four customers. Kable said the store is using the slow time to do programming and retail evaluation.
“You kind of have to make the best of the situation,” she said. “No matter if we have customers or not, we’re grateful we can provide the services [to our employees].”
Bean Hollow Cafe: Owner Gretchen Shuey announced this week in an emotional Facebook post that her shop would be relocating to Catonsville. “Everybody thought the flood of 2016 was a freak storm and we all thought we had time,” she said, reached by phone. But with the second storm arriving in less than two years, she said, it’s looking less like an isolated event and more like a pattern. Now, she said, “We can’t fathom rebuilding.”
The Trolley Stop: Spared much of the damage from Sunday’s storm, according to a Facebook post, the Trolley Shop remains open and is now accepting donations like toiletries and cleaning supplies for displaced neighbors. Patrons can enter via Oella Avenue if Frederick Road is closed.
The Judge’s Bench: The eatery took in more water and mud than in the 2016 storm and is currently closed, according to their Facebook page. However, owner Mike Johnson told the Sun on June 6, “Approved to reopen by health department. Just waiting for greenlight from the County to reopen. Excited to see everyone as soon as possible!”
A friend has set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help out-of-work staffers.
Pure Wine Cafe: “We are relatively ok,” the owners of this Main Street establishment reported in a Facebook post following the flood. But, after the second flood in two years, they were unsure if or when they would reopen.
All Time Toys: The shop’s owners announced they will not reopen in Old Ellicott City but will seek a new location nearby. “After much soul searching and doing the math, it just isn't going to line up for us,” they said in a Facebook post, adding that they had accumulated heavy debts during the most recent reconstruction and were concerned for the safety of their employees if another flood struck.
Syriana Cafe & Gallery: Co-owner Majd AlGhatrif told the Sun that although the cafe did suffer some damage, it will be able to reopen, though it’s not clear when.
In an email, AlGhatrif also described two initiatives to support fellow Ellicott City business owners. A fundraising campaign created by AlGhatrif and his wife and co-owner, Rasha, aims to “rally all who identify with our cause to participate in this fundraising campaign to help us pay back this generous community.” And AlGhatrif plans to host up to six vendors in the cafe’s gallery space.
AlGhatrif said the fundraiser has raised $10,000, including from Syrian-Americans throughout the country.
A post about the fundraiser from the cafe’s Facebook page reads: “With God’s grace and with the resilient structure and operations we have established rebuilding from last flood, Syriana’s losses this time are dwarfed by the devastation to our community. We see this as a responsibility to pay back those who embraced us and help them rise up again.”
Salon Marielle: Manager Rachel Rawlings told the Sun that the salon is not planning to return to Main Street.
“After sixteen of our eighteen years in business on Main Street and three flash floods, we've decided it's time to move on to something else,” Rawlings said in a Facebook message. “We're evaluating all of our options and are grateful for the opportunity working inside Victoria and Albert Hair gives us to do that.”
Rawlings said the salon relocated to Victoria and Albert Hair Studio, at 12230 Clarksville Pike Suite J in Clarksville, for the time being. The salon can be reached by phone at 443-472-8057.
While Rawlings did not rule out a return to Ellicott City off Main Street, she was clear about her requirements for the next location.
“With changing weather patterns, past and continued development and not enough flood mitigation or commitment to do the major flood prevention construction that is necessary, anything within recent paths of water would not be an option for us,” she said. “We love our town, our community but displacing our staff and clients repeatedly isn't a successful business model.”
Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant: Restaurateur Michel Tersiguel said he knew immediately that he would reopen Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant, a longtime destination restaurant for special occasions and French class field trips. He was on the phone with a contractor Sunday night.
“Time to rebuild, that’s it,” Tersiguel said. “It’s no question for us. We rebuilt the building last time, so that helped. … Our plan is to get at it as soon as the county lets us in.”
A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign was created to support the restaurant’s recovery.
Reyes Jewelry Exchange: Owner David Reyes told the Sun that his store “will reopen, better than ever, as soon as full access is restored to the historic district. We’re working hard with our friends, neighbors and community to rebuild Old Ellicott City after our second flood disaster.”
River House Pizza Co.: Nathan Sowers, owner of River House Pizza Co., said he wasn’t sure whether he will reopen.
“It’s an eight-month season,” he said, and the peak tourist time is just beginning. “The sun shines, you make hay. Now is when you need to be doing it.
“We just have to see if the numbers work.”
Sowers said the calculation for business owners will come down to how quickly the county can fix infrastructure and reopen access to the historic district.
“You can get up and get going,” he said, “but you need people to be able to get in.”
Discoveries: Sally Fox Tennant, who owns Discoveries on Main Street, worried she'd been hit harder than in 2016 as she waited for a county truck to escort her to Main Street on May 29.
She remembered all the work that went in to fighting to reopen less than two years ago; she's not as sure she's ready to do it again.
Tennant said she'll wait to assess the damage, but with the knowledge of how much work it would take to reopen. "It's a matter of dollars and cents,” she said. “There's a difference between hardship and losing everything."
"I don't know where I'm going to go from here. I have a healthy dose of realism. You have to take a hard objective look at things when you're in the middle of turmoil. I'd love to come back, but I need to be realistic on what I can expect in terms of money spent on mitigation efforts."
Tennant, like other shop owners, has set up a GoFundMe page.
The ClayGround Studio & Gallery: The ClayGround pottery studio has been open since June 1. Manager Bree Hughes told The Sun that store suffered only minor damage from the flood.
Store owner Michael Koplow said the current process to find a route to the stores and get on the street has slowed business. Despite the difficulties, Koplow said he’s happy to be back, but saddened that the same can’t be said for other businesses. Koplow is donating half of the proceeds from sales for classes at the studio to flood recovery.
Primitive Beginnings, Jaxon Edwin and Clockwork Synergy: Jeff Braswell, owner of several properties on Main Street, including the retail business Primitive Beginnings and the e-commerce company Clockwork Synergy, said Monday he wanted to rebuild. But he hadn’t seen the damage yet.
He said not everyone will return, which will hurt those who do.
“It’s not just about us. It’s about the whole town, because we need each other,” Braswell said. “If you don’t have your coffee shops and restaurants, why are you going to come down to shop?”
Braswell, who said he was four weeks from opening new shop Jaxon Edwin, said Tuesday that shop owners will need to have a united front. The street, he said, will need "anchors" in order to thrive again. "We need to work together."
Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.: Rick Winter is a partner in Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.
“Here we are. We have every intention of fixing it again, just like we did last time,” he said. “But it’s a question of the town itself. … Until they get the infrastructure in the town reopened, it doesn’t make much sense reopening.”
Winter went to his restaurant Monday morning hoping to pump out the basement, but officials weren’t letting anyone inside. The longer it takes before he can start cleanup, he said, the more problems he’ll have. In 2016, he had to hire a special crew to remove rancid food.
“Last time it was a week before we could pump the water out, and that was not good,” Winter said. “It completely changed the complexion of the cleanup.”
Winter said Monday was “a day of frustration.”
“To come back from a flood is an accomplishment,” he said. “To come back from two? A lot harder.”
There is a GoFundMe page for Ellicott Mills Brewing here.
Park Ridge Trading Company: Julia Sanger and her mother Donna Sanger, who owns the shop Park Ridge Trading Company on Main Street, returned from their escort with the store's cash register, kitchen linens and a few electronics in hand. They could take only what their carry on their laps in a county golf cart. The cash register counter, which was bolted to the ground, was upturned. Last time, the water mark in the store was at 7 feet, this time it was on the ceiling. Julia said they're not sure when they'll be allowed back in again, she thinks they're going to have strip everything down to the foundation and sterilize it. Depending on the amount of inventory they have left, Julia said they may sell at farmers markets in the coming weeks."It's like, okay when can we get back in and start shoveling," she said.
The one item that did make it -again- was 'Mighty Pig.' The small, ceramic pig figurine sat atop a shelf during both floods and managed to survive. Julia said she left it in the shop for now. "He's looking over us."
"Don't give up on this little town. People who are here are strong and are fighters, we need people to still believe in us. Ellicott City as a whole, there's something special about it and worth preserving."
Ballet Conservatoire XIV: Co-director Donna Pidel told the Sun that she hopes to be able to reopen the studio at the top of Main Street.
“Of course, we are waiting to hear what the plans are to ensure safety, as we wouldn’t put ourselves or our students and families in danger and take on that responsibility,” she said in a Facebook message. “I hope sincerely that we are able to return. I believe we will.”
Private lessons, small group classes and barre classes are being offered out of a private home studio in Clarksville, Pidel said. Those interested are asked to email INFO@CONSERVATOIREXIV.COM.
A GoFundMe page has been created as well.
A Divaz Boutique: Owner Angelina Brannigan told the Sun that her boutique will not reopen in Old Ellicott City, though she doesn’t know where or when she might relocate.
“I can not do this again for the third time,” she said in a Facebook message. “My heart is with Ellicott City, those people are my family and it pains me to know I will no longer be a part of that community. Hopefully one day when the problem is resolved I will return and shine again.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to support Brannigan’s business.
Southwest Connection: Owner Lori McDermott told the Sun on June 6 that she is currently is looking for a new location, “whether it be temporary or permanent.”
“Depending on the status & condition of Ellicott City, we would consider returning to our present location, if we receive help financially,” she said. “EC has been our Home for 29 years!”
Sweet Elizabeth Jane: Tammy Beideman, the store’s owner, told the Sun she will definitely reopen. She said she would like to stay in her current location at 8125 Main St. but the flood is “still very new” and she can’t say for sure yet.
Beideman’s store had been located in the Caplan's department store building when it was a total loss in the 2016 flood. She reopened her business up the hill afterward, and she says the contents of her current store are mostly intact.
Tea on the Tiber: A lengthy post from Tea on the Tiber’s Facebook page narrated the difficulty of dealing with the immediate effects of the flood.
In addition to a new profile picture reading “Keep calm and rebuild Ellicott City,” the post suggested the business would aim to return.
“You tell me, what do I say to the Ellicott City Partnership. No problem? I will once again spend myself, my family, and friends to rebuild.”
[be] blends On Main: Owner Stacey Ventura told the Sun that she had moved in almost all of her store’s inventory just days before the flood and planned to open the store June 13. She plans to try again, though she can’t say when.
“Our store was hit very hard so only time will tell how quickly we can get up our retail space up and running again,” she said in a Facebook message.
A post from the store’s Facebook page said, “Fortunately, we manufacture our products in a different location, so we are still up and running. We still have our online store, and we are still at the Sykesville Farmer's Market.”
Taylor's Collective: Cindi Ryland, president of Retropolitan — part of the collective of artists, artisans and vendors — told the Sun that Taylor's Collective hopes to reopen soon, once a parking lot is available in the historic district.
“We were spared from major damage and had only mud seepage in our basement and through our front doors,” Ryland said in an email.
Ooh La Lal Hair Salon: The salon has relocated temporarily to Gabriele's Designs In Hair, at 6400 Baltimore National Pike Suite 215 in Catonsville, according to the salon’s Facebook page. The salon is accepting appointments via 410-465-7700.
“The salon was spared from severe damage,” according to a post from the salon’s Facebook page.
Suze Makeup Studio: The studio was “spared for the second time,” owner Susan Heydt said in an email, though the studio itself is still closed. However, Heydt urged clients to email email@example.com about makeup appointments, lessons, personal shopping, bridal, prom, senior portraits and other events.
Great Panes Art Glass Studio: A post from the studio’s Facebook page said, “This time the flood has hit us much harder then the 2016 flood. We are working on opening our business in a new location, while still remaining in Ellicott City.” A GoFundMe page has been created as well.
Sweet Cascades Chocolatier: According to a post from the store’s Facebook page, Rooster and Hen, at 2302 Frederick Road in Catonsville, is allowing Sweet Cascades to temporarily operate out of its space. The store is open as of June 2 with the following hours: Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m.
Little Market Café: Jeni Porter, owner and chef of Little Market Café, said in an email that the store is “100% going to re open.” A GoFundMe page was created to support the store.
Phoenix Emporium: The owner of Phoenix Emporium, Mark Hemmis, created a GoFundMe page to support his employees.
“The damage is catastrophic and we are still processing our next steps,” he wrote in the page description.
A La Mode Boutique: Owner Amie McCaslin said in an email to the Sun, “At this time we don't know how we will ever recover from this second loss to be able to reopen and as many of us, we are still in debt from the 2016 flood.”
McCaslin also said “it is uncertain if we will be able to return.”
The boutique is selling bracelets that spell out “ECStrong” in Morse code via its online store. McCaslin said $5 from each purchase will be donated to the Ellicott City Partnership.
A GoFundMe page has been created for the boutique.
Main Street Yoga: Owner Erin Jeeter said her business has moved temporarily to the Ellicott City Wellness Center, at 3691 Park Ave., and is operating on a modified schedule, which is available at mainstreetyogaec.com.
Jeeter declined to comment on whether her business would return to its space on Main Street.
Main Street Oriental Rugs: Owner Mojan Bagha told the Sun that the business is currently using an office space at 3677 Park Ave., but it will relocate soon to Normandy Shopping Center, at 8450 Baltimore National Pike Suite 28.
“We are taking things a day at a time right now, but do plan to return to Old EC,” Bagha wrote.
HorseSpirit Arts Gallery: A May 31 post from the gallery’s Facebook page says, “I will be moving HorseSpirit Arts Gallery to a new location - just not sure where yet.” A GoFundMe page has been created for the gallery.
La Palapa: A GoFundMe page was created to support the staff of La Palapa Grill & Cantina.
Included in the page’s description: “We will rebuild and we will be back!”
Made on Main EC: According to a June 1 post from the store’s Facebook page reported no inventory was lost. In light of that, the post asks those interested in donating to instead support the GoFundMe campaign for A Divaz Boutique.
Main Street Ballroom: A post from the ballroom’s Facebook page says they hope to reopen as soon as possible. “All in all, we are grateful the damage wasn’t worse and plan on using our resources once we reopen to assist fellow businesses who weren’t as lucky.”
Curious Minds Toys: A post from the store’s Facebook page says, “We will rebuild and we will reopen.” A GoFundMe page has been created as well.
Georgia Grace Cafe: A post from the store’s Facebook page says, “We will be back because of what we mean to you but most importantly because of what you mean to us.” It’s unclear whether the store will reopen in Ellicott City. A GoFundMe campaign has been created.
Envy Salon: The salon announced on its Facebook page that they would be taking appointments at Rob's Barber Shop, at 3425 North Chatham Road. The salon’s phone number is the same as before: 410-480-1770.
Primitive Beginnings: A post from the store’s Facebook page said, “We hope to help rebuild our community again, in a more effective and proactive way than before.” A GoFundMe page has been created to support the store’s recovery.
The Wine Bin: A post from The Wine Bin’s Facebook page described an “emotionally challenging day.”
“I'm not sure The Bin will survive this but we have the Will so hopefully we will find our Way!”
Portalli's: A GoFundMe page was created to “help us provide for our employees that will be displaced from work indefinitely and to help us rebuild again.”
Sweet Suds Bath Boutique: A GoFundMe page was created, “in the hopes of getting [the] business back on its feet.”
The Massage Boutique: A GoFundMe page has been created, with the stated goal of rebuilding.
Summer of Love: A GoFundMe page has been created, though it’s unclear whether the store will reopen.
Miss Fit: A GoFundMe page has been created, though it’s unclear whether the store will reopen.
EC Pops: A GoFundMe page has been created, though it’s unclear whether the store will reopen.
Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector and Kate Magill contributed to this article.