Some of the merchants see the streams as a symbol of their own resilience. Every so often, the water rises—most notably in 1972, when Hurricane Agnes caused several businesses to close their doors for good. The Tiber and the Hudson, which converge near the center of town on their way to the Patapsco River, are part of Historic Ellicott City’s charm.
But even as it rises and falls, the stream that runs behind his shop is a great leveler for Frank DiPietro, owner of the toy shop Mumbles and Squeaks (8133 Main Street). “Sometimes I just walk out here and take a deep breath,” he says, standing on the wood deck behind his shop, above the churning water.
Paul Sturm, who works in an office at the west end of Main Street, sees the Tiber every time he goes into his building. “We have a relationship with the stream,” he says.
Sturm, who is program manager for the Center for Watershed Protection, concedes that it is unlikely a village would be built on top of two streams these days. But the relationship with water is part of what makes the place special, giving the shops and restaurants along Main Street the ambience of a frontier town filled with character.
A walk down the quarter-mile stretch of Main Street reveals variety and charm, from the chocolate-dipped Granny Smith apples at Sweet Cascades (8167 Main Street) to the crammed rooms of The Forget-me-Not Factory (8044 Main Street), filled with fairies, dolls, magic, and collectibles to tea time at Tea on the Tiber (8081 Main Street).
You could spend an entire afternoon browsing in the large antiques emporiums: Taylor’s Antique Mall (8197 Main Street) is four levels with scores of booths, where consigners offer everything from gold pocket watches to braided rugs to Fiesta ware.
Shoemaker Country Furniture (8095 Main Street) has the feel of an old-fashioned general store that has morphed into part Restoration Hardware, part Madison Avenue gift shop, with its selection of fine teas and candles mixed with funky animal-shaped door stoppers and locally made furniture.
Across the street is Tamara’s (8086 Main Street), a collection of vintage painted furniture and feminine cottage-style décor. Main Street Oriental Rugs (8290 Main Street) has luxurious carpets from all over the world, stacked in heaps according to size.
You won’t be able to resist The Yuppy Puppy Pet Boutique (8120 Main Street). Even if you don’t own a dog, owner Holly Hoenes’ selection of everything from handmade pottery pet bowls and knitted jackets to Swarovski crystal collars and leashes will make you wish you did.
Lest you drop as you shop, fuel up at Johnny’s Bistro on Main (8167 Main Street), one of the strip’s newest eateries. Owner Johnny Breidenbach offers a menu of tapas, sandwiches, and creative pizzas. Make sure to take a look at the murals on the wall, images of Ellicott City landmarks, streams and all. Or maybe you’d like to enjoy a nice Sunday Brunch. Head to Tiber River Tavern (3733 Old Columbia Pike) for the very special Black and Blue Benedict, featuring blackened Filet Mignon. Art lovers should also check out the Sheppard Art Gallery (8173 Main Street). The stable of artists includes Robert Knudsen, whose painterly landscapes of local scenes are witness to the pre-development countryside.
At the top of the hill is What’s IN Store (8307 Main Street), a gallery of ever-changing home furnishings and décor, hip, highend, and guaranteed to be unique, from a French country armoire to a meditation bench sitting in a bed of river stones to a steel-framed couch wrapped in raffia, part of a line of “organic” contemporary furniture.
Are your kids tagging along? Don’t forget the B&O Train Museum, Ellicott City Station (2711 Maryland Ave.)
Finally, tucked in the corner of parking lot D behind Main Street
, is a small building that could easily be a gardening shed or a tiny fairytale cottage. It’s the Good Life Market (3782 Old Columbia Pike), crammed with home- and garden-related goods—some practical, some whimsical. The picket fencedin yard is a gallery of garden ornaments: birdbaths, fountains, and stone sculptures.
Recently, a group of employees at the Bean Hollow coffee shop (8059 Main Street) invited Paul Sturm to a meeting about a stream clean-up they were planning for the spring. “Looking after the stream seems like a good way to get people in the community involved,” says Patty Ruehl, who organized the meeting. The back of Bean Hollow’s building is elevated for the stream to pass through it.
“I love the way the stream contributes to the quirkiness of the place,” Ruehl says.