What improvements will make business better in downtown Sykesville?
"Signs to attract tourists to town," said Craig Taylor, president of the Sykesville Business Association.
"Neat entrances and exits and more parking," said Brian Beck, co-owner of E. W. Beck's Restaurant.
"Money to renovate our railroad car," said Bruce Greenberg of Greenberg Publishing Co.
All three business owners also would like a river walk along the Patapsco at the south end of town.
"A riverfront project, maybe an eclectic Victorian building and walk along the river would really draw people," Mr. Greenberg said.
Sykesville has decided to ask the state again to help make Main Street a better place to conduct business.
Undeterred by one rejection, Town Manager James L. Schumacher said he would try again for the maximum grant amount, $25,000, before the Nov. 15 application deadline.
Last year, the state denied the town's grant application to revitalize its main thoroughfare. The $25,000 Main Street Grant would have paid for a portable marquee, additional parking and renovations to a railroad Pullman car that houses the town's model railroad collection.
The revitalization is going on anyway. Shop owners have spruced up their storefronts. Volunteers are refurbishing the Pullman car and visitors can spot a sign or two on Route 32.
Still, Sykesville could use state funds on Main Street.
"I want some input from Main Street merchants before I finish writing the application," Mr. Schumacher said.
Mr. Taylor said drawing people to town is key to a successful revitalization. The town is a hidden treasure, he said, a little too well hidden from motorists on Route 32.
Signs with directions from that highway and Route 70 would tout the merits of stopping in Sykesville.
"If we could get people in, they won't want to leave," said Mr. Taylor. "But they need directions."
In addition to directional arrows on both sides of Route 32, he would like the signs to carry a message such as, "Sykesville, Historic Railroad Town."
"There is a huge sign on [Interstate] 70 which tells drivers to come to 'New Market, antique capital of the world,' " he said. "We are a blossoming railroad town and we should let people know what we have to offer."
With parking for about 300 cars, he said, the town could delay temporarily more parking lots and concentrate on advertising itself.
"You can never have too much convenient parking," said Brian W. Beck, co-owner of E. W. Beck's restaurant on Main Street. "Lack of parking is a real drawback for businesses in Ellicott City. We don't want that to happen here."
Cleaning the outskirts and sprucing up older, outlying buildings also would attract visitors, said Mr. Beck. The town has its own "neat character," he said, but he would like the grant money to make it even better.
"Our section of the street looks nice, but older buildings on the outskirts need refurbishing," he said. "Some may even have to be removed."
Mr. Greenberg has led the drive to renovate a Pullman car into a home for the town's model railroad equipment. Grant money is needed to refinish the exterior, install a cooling and heating system, build stairs and a ramp for the disabled. He estimates that the work would cost about $20,000.