After the that left two 19-year-old women dead and shut off a major artery to the historic district, Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice began posting about the accident on his Facebook wall.
“As if the Ellicott City train derailment wasn't already tragic enough, now i'm hearing that businesses are really suffering bad. Please go support the shops and restaurants on Main Street!!,” he wrote the Thursday after the derailment.
Although Main Street reopened the next day and shoppers came out in droves to that weekend, Rice hasn’t let up.
On Tuesday evening, his publicist announced that the football player is working with the Ellicott City Business Association to host 27 for Old EC–a promotion to continue to encourage shopping in the historic district, to raise money for charity and to raise money to help support businesses for which the derailment was just the last in a series of challenges.
“When I saw [Rice] had posted a Facebook status about helping out the businesses of old Ellicott City, I decided to reach out … and see if we could take it a step further,” Lee Biars, owner of and , wrote in an email to Patch.
Biars had built a relationship with Rice and his representative, Deb Poquette of Official Prestige, during Rice’s second year with the Ravens, when he did a radio show every other week from The Diamondback Tavern.
After seeing Rice’s Facebook posts, he reached out to Poquette and, “It sort of snowballed from there.”
It snowballed into 27 for Old EC –27 being Rice’s football jersey number. For 27 days, beginning Friday, Sept. 14, local shops will run a host of different specials. Money raised will be donated to different charities as well as support the Ellicott City Business Association events such as Midnight Madness, Biars said.
Signed football paraphernalia and other items will also be auctioned as part of the fundraiser.
In addition to funds raised in the next 27 days, Main Street merchants have been working with CSX to file for compensatory payments from the company, which owns the train that derailed as well as the tracks that run over Main Street.
“CSX has seemingly gone out of their way to make sure the affected businesses and town as a whole are compensated for any loss in business,” Biars said, noting that it was likely in the company’s “best interest” to make sure affected business owners are satisfied.
Historic district businesses have been through what some have said are more than their fair share of setbacks in the past couple of years–including , followed by , and a –but always seems to bounce back.
“How we handle it and move forward is within our own control,” Biars said.
“I've never seen this town as close as I have in the past month-businesses have been working together, restaurants were feeding the CSX and city workers, people have supported the families of the victims, etc.... Just walk around and you see people in town smiling and generally in a good mood.”