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Howard County Business: 2012 in Review

Wegmans opened, but not its liquor store. Ale House Columbia and Frisco's dueled in beer headlines. Main Street Ellicott City installs pay parking, to businesses chagrin.

 

It has been quite a year in business here in Howard County.

The grocery superstore Wegmans opened in Columbia, but the planned liquor store on the second floor did not.

The liquor store hearings drew almost as much attention in the county as Wegmans' opening as residents debated Maryland's liquor laws that prohibit alcoholic beverages being sold in chain grocery stores.

Wegmans wasn't the only major grocery store announcement this year, Whole Foods' announcement that it will open a store at the iconic former Rouse Company headquarters building on the Columbia lakefront drew praise from local leaders who called it a "home run" for the development of Downtown Columbia. 

In Ellicott City, county administration drew the ire of Main Street business owners who said the government's plan to place parking meters along Main Street wasn't necessary. The parking plan went ahead anyway.

Also on Main Street, Yates Market, the 127-year-old general store closed, but soon after, Randy & Steve's The New General Store opened up at Yates' former location offering gift items such as lollipops made with local honey, coffee mugs and fragant hand soaps.

The Mall in Columbia made waves this summer when it announced a that will add new stores and restaurants to the retail hub of Howard County. At the same time, L.L. Bean announced it would close its mall location and not relocate inside the mall. In order to make way for the addition, the L.L. Bean store will be demolished.

Elkridge residents lamented the existence of what appeared to be an unlicensed used car sales lot at the former location of the Buttermilk Hill Tavern.

Also in Elkridge, a local business owner who felt the effects of the tough economy was forced to close her Mexican restaurant, El Nayar, as debts piled up.

Two local businesses that sit across the street from each other - Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia and Clark's Elioak Farm in Ellicott City - showed what it really means to take food from a local farm to a diner's table. The farm supplied the restaurant with locally raised pigs and produce.

Beer wars were under way this year on Dobbin Road in Columbia. Frisco Tap House and Brewery opened its new micro brewery this year and produced the restaurant's first two beers under the name Push Brewery in August. Just down the street from Frisco, the owners of Pratt Street Ale House opened the Ale House Columbia, in December at Dobbin Center.

One Dish Cuisine in Ellicott City welcomed gluten-free residents to its new restaurant that offers allergy-sensitive food that one resident said was "the best steak and cheese, pizza and apple cake" she had ever tasted.

In Jessup, burglars reportedly took advantage of a tragic situation by stealing an unknown amount of beer from Mel's Liquor the day after the business burnt down in September.

Diner lovers in the county were disappointed to learn about the closing of Forest Diner, which operated in Ellicott City for over 70 years on Baltimore National Pike. The diner along with the nearby Forest Motel were demolished to make room for Forest Green, a new retail space scheduled to be built at the business' former location.

Lastly, Elkridge residents were pleased this spring when notified by state senator Ed Kasemeyer (D-Howard/Baltimore) that a CSX train-truck transfer station would not be built in their city. In September, it was announced the facility would be built in Baltimore.

What has been the most significant business story for you this year? Tell us in comments.

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