Shop owners report losses after train derailment that killed two

Andrew Mollenbeck,

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Shop owners in historic downtown Ellicott City are quietly dealing with an uncomfortable financial reality this week as the community copes with the tragedy.

Following the train derailment that killed two local teen girls, business seems like a trivial concern. But with road closures related to the cleanup and investigation, limited foot traffic means financial losses for local business owners.

“Every time I want to think about what it’s cost me, I got to remember that I lost money but that there’s two families that lost their kids,” says Sally Tennant, owner of Discoveries.

The contemporary arts and crafts store was closed completely on Tuesday. Tennant, whose son graduated high school with both victims, expects a limited number of customers the rest of the week.

“When I think in terms of what I lost financially, it helps me to not get upset about it but to think what I could have lost, which would be one of my kids,” says Tennant.

Other downtown stores remained closed Wednesday. Of those that opened, their owners estimated the number of people coming by was half that of a typical summer day.

Shop owners say the work trucks and police cars have replaced their patrons. And the few people who venture downtown are leaving flowers for the two teen girls.

Late Wednesday morning, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman projected road closures would likely continue another 48 hours.

Ulman said his priority is to reopen Main Street as soon as possible to help shop owners.

Still, multiple owners turned down interviews because they felt it insensitive to detail financial losses in the face of a community tragedy.

David Robeson, who owns the Antique Depot, opened Wednesday morning after the police tape was moved back from the sidewalk.

His customers had to squeeze by a command truck to get inside, but an “open” flag is now waving out front.

“They’re using Maryland Avenue as their staging area with all their cranes and heavy equipment,” says Robeson. Maryland Avenue runs parallel to the train tracks.

“With no car traffic, (customers) have to park at the far end of town and they have to come all the way to this end, and that’s going to be kind of a hardship for a little while.”

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