Business booming in downtown Sykesville SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

July 20, 1993|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

Auto parts store, dog groomer, stationery store, bank, antique shop, artist gallery, restaurants, electronic repair store, furniture store, hairdresser and barbershop, dance studio, travel agency, video store, insurance agency, real estate agency, mission store, dry goods store and graphic artist.

Occupants of Carrolltown Center or Cranberry Mall? No, this is downtown Sykesville.

Increased efforts in the past year between the town and Sykesville Business Association have led to a Main Street filled with a diversity of businesses.

And what isn't on Main Street is probably nearby on a side street.

"We're excited about what's happening downtown," said Craig Taylor, SBA president. "There's nothing for rent downtown, which is unusual for a small town."

At this time last year, Mr. Taylor said, there were "probably four or five" vacant stores in the downtown area, and now there are none.

The upswing in locating businesses in the town and the increase in customer traffic are due in part to the town's commitment to revitalize downtown Sykesville and to Mr. Taylor's enthusiasm. "Based on the businesses that have opened over the last year, I'd say there is a 30 percent increase in traffic on Main Street," over last year, Mr. Taylor said.

"Working together, you get a lot more done," he said. "We're working with the town, but as the Sykesville Business Association we need our own togetherness, we need to build ourselves up. We're getting some very good support from the business owners and in turn, we give them our support."

When Mr. Taylor took over the SBA in the spring, he pulled the businesses together by visiting each one, talking to the owners, urging them to get involved, asking them if they had problems or concerns the SBA could address.

Memberships started rolling in. When Mr. Taylor took over the SBA on June 9, there were eight members. Now, 37 of the 42 downtown businesses are members, he said.

Business owners attended SBA meetings and plans developed. Downtown was given an extra cleaning, store windows were washed, flags were designed with logos for each business and a media blitz was unleashed.

Creating a coordinated image of the town and an advertising plan was the last point in a series of revitalization plans the town government had established when James L. Schumacher was hired as town manager about eight years ago.

"We've decided to focus on our railroading heritage as our theme and a logo with a train and the slogan 'Sykesville: Close Yet a Century Away' on it," Mr. Schumacher said. "We'll promote the town regionally and build a model railroad display.

"We're trying to get the word out to get people downtown to

shop, enjoy the river, eat at the restaurants and enjoy all the things we have down here," Mr. Schumacher said.

Even with the new stability of the SBA and a theme, some changes continue in town. Jackie's lunch counter, in the hardware store, closed three weeks ago, but re-opened yesterday under new management.

Howard "Frenchie" and Dixie Affeldt, Sykesville residents, decided to go into business for themselves with Dixie's Lunchroom.

"Dixie has worked in restaurants all her life -- she's the chief and I'm the bottle washer," Mr. Affeldt said. "She's got her license and everything and she's real excited. This is the first time she's had her own place."

Across the street, Bob and Ginny Welsh are looking for a buyer for the Past Tymes General Store and Ice Cream Parlor. Family pressures have forced the couple and partner, Arlene Tarbart, to try to sell the business.

The trio put the store in the hands of Long and Foster Realtors and have no serious prospects. If the store doesn't sell within a few months, Mrs. Welsh said, the three will review their options and make a decision.

One business that did change hands in the spring was Consolidated Stationers. Dick Norris sold the store to Mary Helen and Ziggy Molnar, who kept the store's name.

Something new for downtown will be an addition to Mr. Taylor's antique store on Main Street, Alexandra's Attic. A Judaica store, featuring Jewish religious items, will be opened in time for the September Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holidays.

Local business people note more traffic in town and seem bent on keeping the stores they have.

Charles B. Mullins, owner of the hardware store, said, for instance, "We can't let [Jackie's] lunch counter die -- it's been here for at least 50 years."

And Mrs. Welsh said she hoped whoever buys Past Tymes at least keeps the ice cream parlor.

"Sykesville needs it," she said. "Business has been great, especially with the weather like it's been. And a lot of people come from out of town -- you wouldn't believe the street traffic we get."

Mr. Taylor thinks downtown can thrive. "People like small towns, and we're trying to get Sykesville back to where it was before they put in Route 32," he said. The Route 32 bypass took traffic out of the town and away from the downtown area, reducing shopping traffic. "It's the mystique of the small town, and if we can give people enough reasons to come back, they will -- and they are."

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