Ready for a spa and 'retail therapy'

Flush with cabin fever, residents begin to get out and merchants can't wait

  • "We're doing a little retail therapy, because we've been snowed in for a week," says Dana Gonzalez, with daughter Elena Pinelli, who drove Saturday from Bel Air to Mount Washington.
"We're doing a little retail therapy, because we've… (Baltimore Sun photo by Nick…)
February 14, 2010|By Nick Madigan |

When you can take the time to get your eyebrows plucked, you know things are getting back to normal.

That's what Virginia Scott did Saturday, two days after being marooned at home in Greenspring Valley, alone and without electricity for more than 12 hours, by the second winter storm in less than a week.

When the worst was over, Scott, a retired teacher in the Baltimore schools, treated herself to the luxury of a visit to a salon in Mount Washington Village, all the wiser from the experience of having been powerless and stranded.

"I'm going to buy a TV that runs on batteries," she said as she emerged, perfectly coiffed, from DK Salon & Spa. "I'm not going to get caught next time."

That Scott could patronize the beauty salon at all was due in large part to the efforts of Mount Washington merchants who pooled their resources to hire a Bobcat bulldozer on Monday and Friday, at $90 an hour, to clear the drifted snow from back-to-back storms from the community's sidewalks and streets.

"There's no way we could have waited for the city," said Mustapha Snoussi, treasurer of the Mount Washington Village Association and owner of Crêpe du Jour. "There would be nowhere you can park."

Snoussi, who has run the restaurant on Sulgrave Avenue for 10 years, recalled that after the Blizzard of 2003, "it took us almost two weeks to get back to normal business." No one could afford that kind of interruption again, said Snoussi, who arranged for the Bobcat this time. He used his own snowblower to clear some of the sidewalks as well as a parking lot a couple of doors down from his restaurant, and twice had to replace the belt on the machine when it broke.

"I wanted to have a flow of people coming through," he said. Even so, business has been dismal all week, Snoussi and other merchants and restaurateurs in Mount Washington said, and all had lost money to the storms. Last Saturday, when the first of the two winter tempests blew through, a man who had rented the crêpe restaurant for his son's bar mitzvah - and who was expecting 80 guests - canceled the booking and would have lost his $500 deposit had Snoussi stuck to the terms of their contract.

"I don't do business that way," said the restaurateur, a native of Algeria. "I'd like him to come back."

Half a block away, outside the hair salon, Joseph Anderson, a 31-year-old valet who tends to visitors' vehicles, said commerce in the area started to pick up on Friday.

"It's going to take time to get full capacity back, but you see people around," he said. "They're getting tired of the cabin fever. How many cartoons do they have to watch? People are all cartooned out."

Window shopping nearby, Dana Gonzalez and her daughter, Elena Pinelli, 13, acknowledged that they'd felt the need for some fresh air, the impetus for the drive from their home in Bel Air to Mount Washington.

"We're doing a little retail therapy, because we've been snowed in for a week," said Gonzalez, who had just emerged from lunch at the Mount Washington Tavern. They were heading to Towson Town Center for a little mall therapy.

At Newbury & Smith, a store that describes itself as dealing in "sophisticated women's consignment" items such as jewelry, clothes and accessories, owner Karen Feldman said the storms had been a "huge deal" for the Mount Washington community.

"It's a ripple effect, because when the stores and restaurants aren't doing business, we have less traffic," she said. "We all feed off each other."

On Friday, in anticipation of Valentine's Day, Feldman send out an e-mail blast to her regular customers inviting them to a "post-blizzard and Valentine sale," and offered discounts on merchandise.

In the shop's window, a notice drove the point home: "A Sale to Warm the Heart."

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