Loriann Pfefferkorn knows how to put retail space to work.
After running a floral business in Sykesville for a year, she is moving across the street and expanding into what used to be a fire station. There, she will operate her shop and manage eight others in the town's first mini-mall, which is set to open Friday.
Several vendors are joining Ms. Pfefferkorn in Sykesville Emporium, at 7543 Main St.
"What could be more Americana than an old fire station?" she asked.
The 47-year-old building was more recently A Cup Above coffee distributor, which relocated down the street.
The new venture "is more business life for the town," she said. "We can pack several retail outlets into one unit and get diversity."
Antique dealers, an interior decorator, a gift shop owner and a toy and doll maker will work side by side in Sykesville Emporium. Other entrepreneurs are on a waiting list, if space becomes available.
"I put this idea together in about 10 days," Ms. Pfefferkorn said. "I put a sign in the window to advertise it and things just clicked."
Bruce Greenberg, owner of the 2,200-square-foot fire station, said it was constructed in 1948 and used by the town volunteer Fire Department until about 1980. It has had several tenants since, but he is most enthusiastic about the newest. He calls the mall "a splendid idea whose time has come. Lorie is the right person to do it, too. She has the energy and creativity."
The business climate in Sykesville has undergone a "real revival," in the past 15 years, he said. Ms. Pfefferkorn is taking one of the last available spaces on the town thoroughfare.
"Main Street was once a string of buildings in search of a mission," Mr. Greenberg said. "Over a period of time, due in large part to the foresight of the Town Council and Jim Schumacher [town manager], we have had a new optimism. All the improvements have set the stage for retail use."
Craig Taylor, president of the Sykesville Business Association, predicted that the shops will draw more visitors to town.
"It means more nice shops that the town has to offer," he said. "New things to see are another reason that bring more people here, people who will make a day of it."
The town, which has added several new residential developments in the past few years, can support more retail businesses, Ms. Pfefferkorn said.
"There is plenty of revenue here but not enough to buy," she said.
For the past year, the "flower lady" operated her Meadowsweet Emporium in a building directly across Main Street from the firehouse building. Now, antique dealer John Maczis is set to take over the former flower shop.
"If I had moved and this store sat vacant, it would be defeating the purpose," Ms. Pfefferkorn said.
She is keeping her stock of herbs and flowers, fresh and dried, while she manages the new emporium.
And, because Ms. Pfefferkorn's husband's family runs a wholesale coffee business, she can continue the building's coffee tradition. She will welcome mall visitors with different coffee flavors or iced herbal teas, depending on the weather.
The eight 11- by 13-foot stalls are renting for $100 a month. She hopes the low overhead will encourage fledgling businesses to give Sykesville a try. "The cost affords more business owners the opportunity to try Sykesville, with a low risk on their financial investment," she said. "If you can't sell enough to get back $100 each month, then something is wrong."
Sykesville may become as well-known for its antiques and art shops as Ellicott City, she said. "Mini-malls are not a novel concept, but it is something to try here."
Eventually, she hopes for an artist's co-op in the mall, maybe with demonstrations and classes.