Ellicott City is about to lose a landmark at the top of Main Street. Talbott Lumber Co., a small business accurately described as a Howard County institution, will be closing early next month. This family-owned business traces its roots back 146 years -- to a blacksmith shop that opened in 1845, when Ellicott City's economy depended on mills and railroading and the word "suburbanite" wasn't part of the language.
From its current 1905-vintage storefront and lumberyard wedged tightly against a sheer, rocky cliff out back, Talbott Lumber looks nondescript -- a 1990s anachronism up against the garish mass-merchandisers that typify today's hardware and lumber enterprises. But compete is what Talbott Lumber has done in the heart of Ellicott City; retirement, not economics, is behind the store's closing, the family says.
For their mid- to late-20th century patrons, the retiring Milton Mazer and Ben Rosen, his late partner and brother-in-law, have run an unforgettable business their family bought from the original Talbott family in 1945. Not only have they and their employees, some who have worked there many years, built a reputation on having or being able to find sometimes-unusual lumber and hardware, they learned long ago that the public rewards businesses that care.