Dorsey Road merchants ponder fate

September 29, 1994|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

Five years ago, Oak Barn owner Craig Wynne moved his Millersville, Anne Arundel County store into the BWI Plaza because the newly constructed Interstate 97 was diverting daily traffic from his store.

"We were brand new -- our first business," said Mr. Wynne. "Call it naive, but you just didn't think about asking about the roads."

Now Route 100 is coming through to relieve traffic congestion on Dorsey Road, the main thoroughfare to his furniture store.

Mr. Wynne is wondering if he should move again.

"If the traffic dies here, then I'll have to look elsewhere," he said.

Merchants along Dorsey Road say they are concerned about how the Route 100 extension will affect their livelihoods. The 7.5-mile segment will link I-97 in Anne Arundel County to Interstate 95 in Howard County.

Construction for the $87.1 million roadway began in 1992 and is expected to be finished by late 1995, according to the State Highway Administration. When complete, the extension will replace Dorsey as the major east-west connector and southern access to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Large commercial and service companies, which dominate the BWI corridor, say the new road will make access and distribution easier, according to local chambers of commerce. According to the BWI Business Partnership, Inc., there are about 10,000 employees working in 350 firms around Dorsey Road.

But smaller ventures may not have it so easy.

"Now [construction] is bringing a lot more business in the area," says Helen Lowe, manager of the Texaco gas station at 1356 Dorsey Road. "When Route 100 comes in, people will have to detour and to exit, and they're more likely to go further down an exit near their homes or business. You have to be concerned if business going to do well or fall off."

Some businesses along Dorsey Road aren't waiting to see what will happen.

"We've decided that we need to make some changes and move because we aren't going to survive here, " said Robert Phillips, the owner of Carpet Showroom Inc. in the BWI Plaza at Connelley Drive and Dorsey Road. "Business here is too slow. I think it's going to get worse when Route 100 comes through."

Mr. Phillips moved to his current location last year but now is thinking about returning to Howard County, where he opened up his first store.

But restaurateurs expressed more confidence in their ability to maintain profits.

Kathy Ostendorf, the manager at Timbuktu, a restaurant known for its crab cakes, said its good reputation draws a regional crowd.

"As far as we are concerned, people know us and people will go out of the way to come to us," Ms. Ostendorf said. "I've had people tell me no matter where you are, we'll come to you."

At BWI Plaza, management at Dorsey Cakes and Donuts and Subway Sandwich say business should remain steady since their customer base is employees who work in the businesses near the airport.

Business leaders predict the Route 100 extension will boost profits.

"They're ready for Route 100 to open because it's making it tremendously easier to commute and move goods," said Neal M. Shpritz executive director of BWI Business Partnership, Inc. "In the long run, it'll help the retailers."

Marcia Hall, executive director of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, advises businesses to market themselves differently and draw local people.

Ms. Hall says this tactic works. When the Route 32 extension opened in Odenton two years ago, it took up to 70 percent of traffic away from businesses off Route 175. The chamber helped set up a newsletter for Odenton Shopping Center merchants to attract local customers, and business has increased, said Ms. Hall.

One Dorsey Road merchant is trying to anticipate his fate.

"From a catering standpoint, it's going to help [business]," said Bill Racz, owner of Billy Bob's Cafe in BWI Plaza. "But for the cafe, it's going to hurt. We'll have to change our advertising. Now what that secret is -- I don't know."

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