When a CSX train derailed on the bridge over Main Street, Karen Besson didn’t even try to go down to Art and Artisan for few days. She could tell by the pictures on television and in the news that she couldn’t access her store.
“For the first five days,” she said, “We were sort of in the DMZ … I lost Wednesday through Friday,” she said of business. Her store is closed Mondays and Tuesdays and .
On Friday, Oct. 19, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Councilmember Courtney Watson met with Besson and several other Main Street merchants to discuss how the derailment and clean-up impacted business in the Historic District.
“Historic Ellicott City is open for business,” Mikulski said in a statement. “These small businesses are the backbone of this community. They create jobs and bring in visitors and families who shop here, eat here and live here. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who lost loved ones as a result of the tragic derailment earlier this summer. I stand with the residents of Ellicott City who came together after this tragedy to support Main Street jobs and businesses.”
Residents and out-of-towners did support Main Street after the derailment. Besson said business, actually, has been good. “We had the encouragement of so many people,” she said, “ Howard County Tourism and Howard County Government … it really made a difference.”
Besson said it wasn’t just the shopping – she saw an increase in sales of about 10 to 15 percent directly after the derailment – “But it was just as important to see people out and in the streets and going to the restaurants.”
For Sweet Elizabeth Jane owner Tammy Beidman, a visit from the senator had a special poignancy. “My grandmother, who I named the store after, was a humongous supporter of the senator,” Beidman said. “My grandmother could just carry the room in a similar way” as Mikulski.
Business has been good for Beidman, too. “September is the best month I’ve had in 2012,” she said. “And typically September is not so great.”
She told Watson and Mikulski that the area did feel it got support in the days and weeks after the derailment, particularly during this year’s Fall Festival which was, for the first time, accompanied by the Ellicott City Music Fest.
“It was so good and so well attended,” Beidman said. “I just felt like after that, we were very well supported. We’ve been through a lot of little – and a few big – hits, it’s almost been surreal.” Even before the derailment, the Historic District had dealt with floods and power outages. “I’ve never felt unsupported by people,” Beidman said, “But I thought the festival was really good at helping bring us a little closer together.”
“I really feel like this town has bounced back,” Besson said. Aiding in its quick recovery was CSX itself. “I really feel like they came in almost like a commando team,” she said. A CSX representative attended the past two Ellicott City Business Association meetings and made herself readily available. “They really handled this well.”
Mumbles and Squeaks co-owner Ed Williams said he was so impressed with the CSX team that he made a point to mention it to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot when he was on Main Street on Oct. 9. Franchot was there to recognize Phoenix Emporium owner Mark Hemmis for his role in feeding and housing CSX and emergency personnel during the aftermath of the derailment. “They really went out of their way,” Williams said.
The Howard County Times reports Mikulski said she wanted to find out what had happened to cause the derailment, “And get the policy recommendations so it never happens again. ... We know it had a terrible impact on the families of the two girls killed, and it had an impact on the businesses."
On Aug. 21, a CSX freight rain carrying coal derailed in Ellicott City, killing 19-year-olds Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, both of Ellicott City. Main Street was closed to traffic until the following Friday evening, when a grassroots effort encouraged people to come out to Main Street and shop.
Watson, who’s District 1 includes Ellicott City’s Historic District, said the senator’s tour “showcases a special place where business owners, residents and visitors find enjoyment in all the unique aspects of this richly historic and beautiful town.” The two visited several stores, including Discoveries and the Forget-Me-Not Factory, and had a private lunch at Cacao Lane.
“As we continue to remember and mourn the loss of two young members of our community in the recent train derailment,” Watson said in a statement, "we are grateful for Sen. Milulski’s visit today and for her continued support of historic Ellicott City."
“It was, I thought, very encouraging that she was here,” Beidman said. “She seemed like she was really here to show her support.”
- Two Young Women Dead in Ellicott City Train Derailment
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- Main Street to Remain Closed as Derailment Investigation Continues
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