Saturday, May 31, 2008

Annabell's Closed

As we were strolling through downtown EC last evening I noticed that Annabell’s Wine Bar was closed. It was around 7:00 PM on Friday night. Ordinarily the place would have been hopping by then. Peeking through the windows I saw chairs on top of tables and it looked as the place had not been cleaned from the night before. There were bags of trash on sidewalk outside.

The door was padlocked and a simple sign read “closed.”

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Musings

It will be a couple of years before Wegman’s opens at 8855 McGaw Road in Columbia. I wonder if anyone will cut the grass before then.

So far this spring, I don’t believe it has been cut once. The building is empty now that HBO is no longer using it for the production of The Wire. I don’t think Wegman’s actually owns the property yet since the tax records still list the owner as Science Fiction, LLC. Science Fiction LLC is owned by Jack Antwerpen, you know, the guy who says “Yes!”

Hey Jack, how about cutting your grass?

And speaking of Wegman’s…

I have been told that the workers at Wegman’s are friendly and helpful. They seem to enjoy their jobs. I have observed the same phenomenon at the new Harris Teeter store in the Kings Contrivance Village Center and the Trader Joes at Gateway Overlook. I call it a phenomenon because happy workers in grocery stores are not something I have been accustomed to around here, particularly in the Giant stores.

What do these three happy employee grocery stores have in common?

They are all non union.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scene This Week In...

SuCasa has returned to Ellicott City after a two year absence. The comtemporary home furnishings store used to be located in the former bank building at 8098 Main Street. That space is now occupied by Wessels Florist.

The new SuCasa has taken over the space that was formerly occupied by What’s In Store. What’s In Store was best described as an “eclectic” home furnishings store. It was fun to look at their merchandise but we never bought anything from them.
In any event, SuCasa returned to Ellicott City this month in a bigger space with more stuff.

The big retail news in Columbia is the opening of the new Harris Teeter store in the Kings Contrivance Village Center.
I first encountered Harris Teeter about ten years ago when I was in North Carolina visiting my sister. I remember wondering if our Giant grocery stores would ever be that nice. Wishful thinking I suppose. This is the kind of store that is well positioned to compete with Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s.
Anyway, Harris Teeter is open now and it is even better than I recall from that visit 10 years ago.

I also like it when a big company shows a sense of humor.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Hear Ya!

“Tell wordbones that he needs to update his blog.”

One of my coworkers passed that message on to me this morning. It came from a buddy of mine.

Okay, I haven’t exactly been a posting machine lately, but at least I am doing better than I was at this time last year. Last May I only posted four times, with this post it will be thirteen for this May and I still have three days to go.

The fact of the matter is that I have been working on my next column for the Business Monthly. I also have to squeeze my writing into the time I have between my real job and the job of raising a little girl.

Discretionary time is sometimes at a premium.

That all being said, I have been meaning to do a post on the readership of Tales of Two Cities for some time now so perhaps now is a good time. Every so often I’ll get an anonymous comment about how blog readership, and this blog in particular, is declining. That is not quite accurate. In fact, last May, the monthly number of visits to this blog was 847. Last month the number of visits was 2,381. Any reader can check this out for themselves by clicking on the little site meter icon at the bottom of this page.

I am humbled by this response. Thank you to all who have dropped by.

Some other interesting stats: the average time spent on this site is 2:24 minutes, the top ten cities that visitors have come from are 1) Columbia, 2) Baltimore, 3) Simpsonville, 4) Ellicott City, 5) Brooklyn, 6) Washington, DC, 7) Long Island City, 8) Summit Argo, 9) Catonsville and 10) Allston.

Summit Argo?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Public Works

In my travels through downtown Ellicott City yesterday I came across this “repair” job on a utility pole in front of Mumbles and Squeaks toy store.

Apparently the pole, owned by BGE, was damaged and needed to be replaced. The BGE crews came out and installed a new pole and put their lines on it. The other lines on the old pole belong to Verizon. According to Ed, one of the owners of the toy shop, Verizon can’t get a crew out to move their lines until sometime after the holiday weekend.
I think it would be wise to avoid parking along this part of Main Street until that occurs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How Did This Happen Follow Up

I spoke with Kim Flowers today. Kim is the Deputy Director of Planning & Zoning for Howard County. She put together the Land Plan video I wrote about in a previous post. I asked Kim point blank how Bridget Mugane, the president of the Howard County Citizens Association, came to be featured in this video.

“We thought it would be great to have someone who could speak for majority of the citizens of Howard County” in the video.

I pointed out to Kim that I don’t believe that Ms. Mugane speaks for the majority of the citizens of Howard County. Kim tacitly acknowledged that point.

She admitted that, in retrospect, it would probably have been better to have other citizen views represented as well. She also said stated that she did not believe Bridget was anti development.


I asked Kim if she thought a majority of citizens were “threatened” by development and she said she did not believe that to be so. I pointed out to her that this is exactly what Bridget states in her video.

“She does? I’ll have to go back and check that.

Good idea.

Kim went on to explain that Bridget has “input on everything we are doing” in her department

No doubt.

I still wondered how it came to be that she was given such a prominent place in the video. Who exactly made that call?

“I can’t recall. I’d have to go back to my notes and check.”

I asked her to call me back after she did that and she said she would.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Meet Merkle

Columbia is set to welcome it’s newest corporate headquarters’ when Merkle moves into its new campus in Columbia Gateway later this month. As reported by Hanah Cho in today’s Sun, Merkle will employ about 900 people in Howard County.

Whenever a company of this size relocates it’s headquarters to our county it is a very good thing.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How Did This Happen?

I was looking through the Planning & Zoning Department information on the Howard County website when I ran across this nifty little video on Land Planning. The nine and half minute video is hosted by Kimberly Flowers, the Deputy Director of Planning & Zoning.

About five minutes into the video, Bridget Mugane appears. During her piece, which lasts almost a minute, she proceeds to state that she believes “a majority probably feel threatened by development.”

How did this happen?

For those of you who don’t know Bridget, she is the president of the Howard County Citizens Association, a decidedly anti development group. How come she is given such a prominent posture (more than 10% of the video) in a government sponsored piece on land planning?

This appears to be an outright endorsement of the Howard County Citizens Association agenda by the Howard County government.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Another Rainy Day Rant

Honestly, it really isn’t the foul weather that has me a little cranky today. Truth be told, the weather really doesn’t bother me all that much. Having spent the last four weekends or so putting plant material into the ground, I am happy to have Mama Nature do the watering.

It’s the rainy day driving thing that gets me started. And apparently it is not just me either. Donna, our office administrator, lives in Linthicum. When our office was located in Hanover she would only come to Columbia occasionally. Now she comes to Columbia five days a week. Her question today was, “Don’t people in Columbia use turn signals?”

The answer is not many of them.

That isn’t what compelled me to do a second rainy day post though. It was bad design of the entrance and exit to the small retail center where both Starbucks and Fuddruckers are located on Dobbin Road. Due to the previously posted shutdown of Snowden River Parkway this morning my altered morning traffic pattern bought me by the Starbucks on Dobbin rather than the Orinoco Coffee House on McGaw Road.

Getting in and out of that little shopping center will test any Choose Civility patron. It is essentially an alternating one way street. This morning, as I turned in off of Dobbin Center Way, two other cars were simultaneously approaching the exit on both the right and left side. Thankfully everyone was paying attention and courtesy ruled the day as each took their turn going through the exit/entrance. It’s not that it isn’t wide enough for two cars, it’s that it’s just wide enough for two cars. There is very little margin for error.

I couldn’t help but wonder how that layout got past Sketch Plan Approval.

Slippery When Wet

Yesterday I witnessed two accidents that I am certain were somehow linked to the wet weather. The first was on Dobbin Road near the Starbucks around 1:00 PM. Two mini vans, headed in the same direction, had run into each other. The second one was on Route 29 at the underpass with Route 32. There was car off in a ditch on the southbound side of the road. It was around 2:30 PM.

This morning, driving down Snowden River Parkway, I was forced to detour on to Route 175 (Rouse Parkway) because a tractor trailer had overturned beneath the Route 175 overpass. The police had blocked off all of the westbound lanes so that they could get a crane in there to lift the truck back up. There were several near misses as drivers tried to figure out what they were going to do now that the road was blocked.

Sheesh! The auto body shops must love this weather.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Goodbye to Geary

I’ve recently been told that Karen Geary, the general manager of The Mall, has resigned. You may recall that Karen had the unfortunate experience with the poinsettia tree last Christmas. I wonder if that had anything to do with her decision.

Not many people also know that Karen was an active volunteer in the community too. She is currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Columbia Foundation. I can attest that this is a very active board. I gracefully resigned as a trustee before my own term expired because I couldn’t handle the additional workload. The point is, Karen has earned some community cred that would indicate that she is not the monster that some, including this old dog, made her into.

In all probability the decision to remove the poinsettia tree this year was made during some budgetary meeting in Chicago. The company had also made a commitment to that Santastic thing so I’m guessing that it got priority when the budgeting got tight. Budeting always get tight in budgetary meetings. The poinsettia tree is beautiful but very expensive.

All of this of course came about before Greg Hamm came to town as the new general manager of Columbia for General Growth Properties. Greg got to look like the white knight riding in on his horse and restoring the poinsettia tree while Karen wore the black armor for banishing it to the Symphony of Lights in the parking lot at Merriweather. The corporate game can be a full contact sport sometimes.

So Karen Geary, this old dog wishes you health, happiness and wealth in your next endeavor. This rounds on me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

In This Months Business Monthly

Sometimes the inspiration for my column in The Business Monthly comes from the local blog scene. This month, as I was working on the third draft of a column about GGP’s long awaited presentation of the Columbia Town Center Draft Master Plan (that’s really quite a mouthful isn’t it) I happened upon the Hayduke blog post about the same meeting. After reading his comments and revisiting my own notes, I found the focal point for my column.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of this months issue, you can read the column here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Who You Callin' Potbelly?

I just received a tip from a retail broker I know that Potbelly Sandwich Works will be taking over the space formerly occupied by the Atlanta Bread Company on McGaw Road in Columbia.

Currently the closest Potbelly Sandwich Works is located at the Arundel Mills Mall.

Scene This Week In...

I’ve been a little remiss in posting new Scene This Week pictures lately. It seemed like I every time I time I set out to take some new shots it was either raining or cloudy. Since my most recent STW pictures were taken on a cloudy day I really wanted to capture a sunny day this time around.

Not that I mind the rain. We still very much need it.

The improvement in the weather brought out the golfers at Fairway Hills Golf Course in Columbia this past Sunday. There was a wait at the driving range as golfers came out in droves to work out the kinks in their game getting ready for the season. The improved weather is good for the ice cream business too. In Howard County that has often meant a trip to Soft Stuff next to the Forest Diner on Route 40. Soft Stuff has been selling ice cream at this location for as long as I have been around here (forty plus years). If you have never ventured out to this outpost of frozen confections you can take it from this old dog that it is well worth the trip.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Diorama Explained

I ran across this video on You Tube the other day. It does a nice job of explaining various scenes in the diorama of Ellicott City and West Baltimore in the B&O Railroad Museum in Ellicott City.

This is a great little museum and the diorama is basically a very detailed train garden. Thanks to this little video I now have a better understanding of what I am looking at.

The B&O Railroad Museum is a great rainy day excursion if you like trains and history. With rain in the forecast for this Sunday it might be a good time to drop in and check it out.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Liz Bobo as CA President?

Every once in awhile, I’ll lob an easy one across the plate just to see who will take a swing at it. When I heard the rumor about a backroom deal brokered by certain members of the Columbia Council that would theoretically hand the job of Columbia Association president to Liz Bobo, I thought I’d have all kinds of commenter’s scrambling for the batter’s box.

I guess I was wrong. The few anonymous comments I did receive were all positive. No one seemed to be bothered about the possibility that such a deal may have been made on the side.

Of course it was just a rumor. Still, I was surprised. That is not to say that Liz couldn’t do the job. She does have experience as an executive of a large organization (Liz was the county executive before Chuck Ecker). If true, this would certainly shed some more light on her active involvement in promoting certain candidates for the Columbia Council in last month’s elections.

Anybody else want to take a swing at this?