SYKESVILLE — It's not a bustling metropolis, and few people are getting what you could call rich, but the downtown business district of this all-American small town continues to thrive.
Admittedly, the economic downturn the country has suffered in the last year has affected several businesses. Three craft shops closed their doors last month, but were promptly replaced by other stores.
"Basically it's just the recession," said Kathryn Schaffer, ownerof The Sykesville Emporium on Main Street. "This type of business isthe first to feel the effects (of the lagging economy) and the last to recover."
The two-room shop, opened in December 1989, offered Schaffer's own crafts, plus those of as many as 30 other craft-makers on consignment.
Three doors down, John Baier closed his Family Heirloom and Woodworking store, where he had made and sold wooden toys since October.
"We were received well when we opened just before Christmas last year," he noted. "But with the economy the way it is, people are holding on to their money.
"They're nervous, and they're being laid off from jobs they didn't expect to get laid off from."
Baier, a carpenter, had hoped to go into business for himself. Like Schaffer, he's going to "wait and see" what happens with the economy before trying anything else on his own.
A third Main Street craftsshop, Trinkets and Treasures, closed in mid-July after only two months.
Three shops in a small town sounds like a big loss. Actually, though, few storefronts are empty along Main Street. New businesses quickly replace defunct ones.
Bob Anderson, a 25-year-old newlywed,has high hopes for his new Main Street business, The Hidden Reef, which specializes in saltwater and freshwater fish and aquarium supplies.
Besides fish, he has on display a reef tank with live coral androcks. He plans to supply such items for people with their own reef tanks.
"We felt the store here would be a nice place to start a business and get a feel for downtown Sykesville," Anderson said.
An Electrolux sales and service store will replace Trinkets and Treasures.
Across the street, at Main and Sandosky Road, renovation is progressing on the general store and ice cream parlor owned by Robert and Emily Welsh and Arleen Tarbart.
Expected to open later this month, the store will offer specialty gourmet foods, crafts and gifts, plus an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that will include frozen yogurt,coffee and sodas.
"The ice cream parlor fits the image of what we're trying to do in Sykesville," said Rebecca Herman, chairwoman of the town's Historic Preservation Commission. "We're hoping people willcome and bring their kids and enjoy it."
Other downtown businesses, such as Consolidated Stationers and the Ace Hardware Store, have operated for years.
"Where else can you get a snowball in a hardware store, or lunch?" asked owner and former Town Councilman Charles B.Mullins.
Inside the door, to the right, is an ice shaver and bottles of snowball flavorings. A few feet back is Jackie's, a cozy food counter where the old-timers come for morning coffee and gossip.
On Springfield Avenue, Jerry Forespring makes custom-designed cabinetsand furniture.
"Business has been picking up since spring. Until then, even people with money were watching their money until they found out where they stood with their taxes," Forespring said.
Business owners note that the town's restaurants, bank, barbershop and stores that offer products or services that people need are doing well.
"We're all still working to promote our businesses," said Dick Norris, owner of Consolidated Stationers and vice president of the Sykesville Business Association. "We're all trying to get a piece of the pie that's not getting any bigger."