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Berlin business vacancies likely to fill in by summer

Yarn store A Little Bit Sheepish opened last month in a portion of the former PNC Bank building on Berlin’s Main Street. Several other businesses are expected to fill in Main Street vacancies before next summer.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Jan. 3, 2019) A few business vacancies were in downtown Berlin last year, but Economic and Community Development Director Ivy Wells said she expects those all to be filled by next summer.

For starters, Wells said a new clothing store would likely move into the 11 South Main Street space vacated by Attics of My Life after a fire last spring.

Two spaces in the former PNC Bank building on 1 South Main Street were filled in November by Yuppie Puppy and the new location for A Little Bit Sheepish. Wells said Michael Queen, who owns the building, is considering “a walk-up, vending type operation” for a third space, where the former bank drive-through window had been.

“Maybe snow cones or something like that,” she said. “But, there still needs to be a lot of work done for that drive-through part.”

Across the street, on 2 South Main Street, Wells said Alyssa Maloof’s new photography studio would eventually open on the second floor, above the new location for Dream Weaver, which also opened in November.

“Her photos are unbelievable,” Wells said. “They’re just gorgeous.”

In a game of musical chairs, Uncle Jon’s Soap on 12 William Street will soon move into the former Burley Florist space on 12 Pitts Street. Wells said two others are vying for the William Street space.

The On What Grounds coffee shop on 103 North Main Street has expanded into the former Maryland Wine Bar location, Wells said, and will expand the menu to offer more food options.

She said a new tenant for the former Culver’s antiques space remains on hold.

“They’re still working through some proposals for that building,” she said.

Wells is also working to help a new business open on Gay Street, “which is hush-hush right now.”

“There’s a possibility – we’re still working on that,” she said.

Asked about her impressions of overall business last year, Wells said, “Every time that I was downtown, it was busy.”

“I peeked in the shops and they looked pretty busy to me,” she said, adding she has yet to do a formal assessment. “Usually, I check with the businesses after the holidays, because it’s so busy sometimes I don’t want to interrupt them while they’re waiting on people in their shops.”

By peak season this year, Wells expects all of the downtown slots to be full.

“I see all of our spots full for this summer … and everyone succeeds when the spots are full,” she said. “It’s more variety and it’s more of a destination.

“What’s interesting is that they’re all different – each shop is unique in its own way,” Wells continued. “When property owners ask me what do I think would work here, I give them my honest opinion. If there’s a business that wants to open here that’s exactly the same or similar to what we already have, I’ll tell them it probably won’t succeed because we already have this – you need something different.”

Along with a full downtown, Berlin is also likely to benefit from John Trader’s new, 145-seat barbecue restaurant on Old Ocean City Boulevard bordering Route 50. Trader is the owner of Liquid Assets in Ocean City and Our Harvest in Fenwick Island.

Wells said the impact of that new business can’t be underestimated.

“There are so many people who don’t even realize, still to this day, that downtown Berlin even exists,” she said. “Now, you’re going to have a restaurant right on the outskirts that will be a destination for people who want really good barbecue. And John Trader, his reputation precedes itself.”