This week marks one year since the reopening of Ellicott City after catastrophic and fatal flooding in the summer of 2016.
If you haven't been because you think the historic mill town is still suffering the effects, you are making a big mistake.
"They did a good job restoring it," said Ryan Wagener, of Frederick, as he shopped with a friend Tuesday. "I thought there would be a lot more damage in the area, but it doesn't look like anything happened."
"We've had a hell of a comeback," said Lori McDermott of Southwest Connections, who sells authentic Native American jewelry and crafts.
Out of more than 90 shops, businesses and restaurants before the flood, only 17 have not returned, according to McDermott.
The catastrophic flash flood on July 30, 2016 did $42 million in damage and forced the total shut down of the Main Street area of Ellicott City for four months so roads and utilities could be rebuilt. The town's landmark historic mill structures survived, but many required gutting and renovation.
Here are some top reasons to visit Ellicott City this holiday season:
- Funky Vibe: There are no national chains or corporate stores on Main Street. The majority of shops are small businesses with owners standing behind the counters.
- Totally Unique Stuff: If you are into one-of-a-kind vintage items, art and jewelry, this is your place. Ellicott City ain't Amazon, Target or Crate and Barrel. Sure, there's some campy bric-a-brac, but cool surprises are not hard to find.
- Small Business Saturday: The whole town rolls out the red carpet on November 25th. It'll be busy and fun.
- Midnight Madness, Friday, Dec. 1: People love to eat at one of the great restaurants then stroll Main Street under holiday lights. Everyone stays open until at least a half hour past midnight. There are roaming carolers, period actors, food and refreshments at a winter holiday market. It's a highlight of the season.
Many small business owners lost everything and are still financially recovering from the disaster. While the city was open in time for the holidays in 2016, the ribbon-cutting hoopla is now over and the training wheels are off for 2017. A good holiday season in Ellicott City this year will provide a real sense of normalcy that was lost after the flood.