Main Street prospers, despite the recession New shop owners like Sykesville SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

September 29, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

SYKESVILLE -- Main Street business is alive and growing steadily. Despite the recession, new shop owners say they are prospering and plan to stay.

"We have had several new stores open lately and the restaurants also draw people," said Dick Norris, president of the Sykesville Business Association and owner of Consolidated Stationers at 7568 Main St. "People can find different things here, and there's no parking problems."

Ginny Welsh, owner of Past Tymes General Store, at Main Street and Sandosky Road, said she thinks people want to get back to small towns and small shops.

"People are often overwhelmed in the mall atmosphere," she said. "Small towns are starting to come alive, and people have more reasons to come here."

Ms. Welsh said the store's corner location also has played a part in the success. Across the street, the owners of Craftsman Art Co. said that if the town ever gets its first traffic light, it will be at that corner.

"The traffic is always heavy through that intersection; it's a good sign," said Mark Rychwalski, who, along with Wiley Purkey, opened the art and framing business three years ago.

The location is ideal and the business attracts many local customers, he said.

"I always admired this building as one of the few which retained the original facade," said Mr. Purkey, who lives "just up Main Street."

Built in 1878, the two-story frame structure served residents as a barbershop, pool room and plumbing business before it became available to the art company.

"The building drew us as something magical," said Mr. Rychwalski. "It is so perfect with location, shop lights, everything."

The shop retains its original storefront and stained glass over the entrance and display windows, which now exhibit mirrors and prints framed by the owners.

The 1,200-square-foot space also includes a workroom, where one or both men "touch every piece that comes in," said Mr. Purkey. After the first few months, Mr. Purkey said, the business took off.

Challenges keep things interesting, said Mr. Rychwalski.

Those challenges have included framing a mummified Egyptian foot, ice skates and locks of hair from Napoleon, President Andrew Jackson and General Custer.

, "There were only three known

locks of General Custer's hair, and one came through here," said Mr. Purkey. "I am always fascinated, and still see things I can't believe are real."

The owners use the newest and oldest methods. When one customer searched through 100 samples for a frame for an 1880s painting and found nothing old enough, Mr. Rychwalski antiqued a new frame to give it the patina of age.

"People are comfortable leaving artifacts with us," said Mr. Purkey.

"We don't alter it. They should be able to pull it back out of the frame and have it in its original form."

Civil War memorabilia is among the most popular, they said.

"We can't keep a picture of Lee or Lincoln in here," said Mr. Purkey. "Customers are just crazy about American history."

The two recently framed a 1984 birthday greeting to President Ronald Reagan from then-Vice President George Bush.

"We get to see a lot of wonderful art," said Mr. Rychwalski. "People trust us with their treasures. We treat everything like it is priceless."

Customers have become so at tuned to their style, some drop off a picture without selecting a frame and matting.

"They say 'You know what I like. See you in a week,' " said Mr. Purkey.

Return visits usually mean more business for Main Street.

"We have improved a lot in the last three years and the potential for more is here," said Mr. Norris. "People just seem to like to come downtown in a small town."

The association plans several events for visitors, including the 19th annual Sykesville Fall Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

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