September 1, 2007

We Can Work It Out - (I Hope So!)

In the Spirit of improving the Village by working together for the common good. Several people and business owners have suggested that I sit down with the Owner's of Ships Cafe or that I write them a nice letter and try to reason with them, surely they will come around and see the benefits of improving Catonsville beyond their own place.
Well I tried meeting with them -Not so good. So I sent them what I thought was a nice letter, suggesting that we work together.

Here are the unedited copies, of the letter that I mailed to the Andrews' and their response.

Jim Andrews

Sharon Andrews

Ship's Cafe

828 Frederick Rd.


July 2, 2007

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,

We seem to have gone down the path of developing a less than desirable
relationship as neighbors'. I would like to take this opportunity to reintroduce myself and share my thoughts about the future of Catonsville with particular regards to your business/property and ours.

I have lived in Catonsville my entire life and really want to see the town grow in a
forward direction. I have many fond memories of the businesses that once lined
Frederick Rd.- Father's Gay Nineties, Jo Jan Archery, Fields Hobby Shop, Pete's Grill,Earl Dew's Bicycle Shop &Wilson Lumber to Name a few. These were businesses thatattracted people to the area and gave the Village, a true sense of Community. For a variety of reasons, all of the above businesses are gone. Most have been replaced by service-oriented businesses, establishments typically closed after 5pm and on weekends. A "Main Street" should have stores, shops, cafes and restaurants that bring people to the area after the workforce has gone home.

Along with this change, in the dynamic of The Village, the Residents of Catonsville
have changed as well. There are more young families and the income level is higher than it used to be. Many of these families leave Catonsville and drive to Ellicott City,Columbia and Baltimore City on a regular basis to find establishments that serve their needs. While I sincerely believe that Ship's Cafe is an asset to the community and has helped the image of Catonsville and along with ChefPaolino's offers new dining options for Catonsville. I have never heard of anyone saying "Let's go to Catonsville for Dinner". People usually will mention the specific Restaurant that they intend to patronize and if it is too crowded or the wait is too long. Then, they might say "Let's go to Ellicott City or Columbia" or another area, where they know that they can drive, easily park and then walk the street. Reading Menu Boards and checking out the specials before they decide
where to dine that particular evening. I bought the properties across the Street from you with the intention of following your example and working to continue to revitalize the area by attracting a Sushi Restaurant and/or other different dining experiences to the area. I have several letters of intent from restaurant owner's that are established in the surrounding counties and Baltimore City. Restaurants that already have a strong client base and would draw new patrons to the Catonsville area. I am being strongly encouraged by many of our neighbors to bring another restaurant to town. The benefit of attracting an existing business from say Columbia or Towson, is that Diner's from Pikesville or Ellicott City may view Catonsville as a more attractive destination. I firmly believe that a "Rising Tide, Raises
all Ships". Once a few new Restaurants open up then boutique type stores will follow.

Unlike most property investors, I have been very selective in the types of tenants to
whom we will lease space. I have recently turned down: several mental health care
facilities, a used appliance store and a Mattress Wholesaler (the one that just opened down the street) in the spirit of, attracting interesting businesses, that attract more affluent customers to the area. I have also been very hesitant to lease the space to anyone that wants to come in and create a brand new Restaurant from the ground up. While I have seen some very interesting business plans, most incorporating Bring Your Own Alcohol, these entrepreneurs have all tried to sell me on the idea that they will build their businesses buy focusing their efforts on drawing customers away from the existing restaurants on Frederick Rd. While, I am sure that they could succeed, the vitality of Catonsville as a whole would suffer from this type of competition. I believe that drawing new customers to the area, rather than competing for the finite number of potential customers that live in the immediate vicinity, would better serve us all.

This area will be undergoing some major changes in the next few years. Positive or
Negative, is yet to be determined. If the Promenade, with its multiple Restaurants and convenient parking were open today, I believe that it would flourish at the expense of the existing restaurants in the business district. It does not have to be that way. We can create the feeling that Frederick Rd. is The Place to Go, so that when the Promenade does open, its many visitors will want to travel beyond the "Bright and Shiny" new center to visit "Quaint and Charming" Old Catonsville.

When we last discussed my plans, you stated that you did not share this vision. I
would like to ask that you reconsider your position. The success of Ship's Cafe gives
testament to the fact, that Catonsville will embrace and can support more dining
attractions. We would like to work with you before we lease the space across the Street. You have the opportunity to help shape something that could have a very positive impact on Catonsville and your business in particular. I am hopeful that you will support expanding the Revitalization efforts beyond your own concerns.

The County has approved our site plan for Strawberry Fields at Catonsville. We are
moving forward to add additional parking spaces behind 821-829 Frederick Rd. As I had
mentioned to you before, I would like to work out an arrangement where you and your
customers would benefit from the new parking and I could bring an establishment to the area that could enhance your business as well.

We are neighbors. I would like to suggest that we work together and not against
each other. I have faith that if we support each other to do what is best for the community then we will both succeed beyond our expectations.


Craig Witzke


Councilman Stephen G. Moxley

Delegate James Malone, Jr.

Delegate Steve DeBoy

The Honorable Adrienne Jones - Delegate

Senator Edward Kasemeyer

The Honorable James Smith

The Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce

(I then indicated in handwriting that I included the above contacts to show them that we were trying to work together for the benefit of Catonsville)

Here is the response the I received:

Dear Mr. Witzke

In response to your letter received July 5,2007,1 too grew up in Catonsville my
entire life. The Andrews family moved to Catonsville in 1910 with a strong community
commitment. As far as me not only being bom in 1950 and raised in Catonsville I also
was a uniform police officer for 15 Yrs. and an undercover narcotics officer for 10 yrs. putting my life on the line every day for the community, the state of Maryland and the United States of America.

In February 2002 my wife and I bought the old 828 bar and opened Ships Cafe' but six
months prior we had put together a five year business plan and investigated whether or not we would be able to expand and grow the restaurant with out any problems regarding state and local laws. One of the things that was attractive about purchasing the 828 was the fact that because of state law a liquor license could not be placed on the Muhr property across the street because of being within 300 Ft. of the church.

My wife and I were able to obtain loans for the purchase and expansion of Ships Cafe
after we had to guarantee the loan by putting up everything that we own. My wife and I have worked seven days a week for the past 5 1/2 Yrs. To make Ships what it is today. The one thing I must point out is the fact that Mr. Muhr was still alive when Ships was being built and after his death the property was passed onto his son. You on the other hand purchased the property from Jay Muhr and went to settlement in August of 2006. After purchasing the Muhr property and going to settlement Mr. Witzke you contacted Dave Mister the attorney for the Baltimore County Beverage Association inquiring on placing a liquor license on the property that you want to develop. You were informed by the attorney that because of state law one could not be placed their. You further inquired with several other people about a liquor license and were told the same thing because of state law a liquor license could not be placed on the property that you want to develop.

It is a disturbing fact that you Mr. Witzke being on the planning board for Baltimore
County that you were unaware of this law. If that is the case that you were unaware of the law let me refresh your memoly. About three years ago two business men in this
community purchased the liquor license from the Westview Lounge and attempted to
open a restaurant on Frederick Rd. They too were unaware of the state law and were three feet shy of Catonsville Elementary School they were denied because of the state law. What makes you any different then those two business men? Because you are on the Planning Board for Baltimore County. Now that you are a land developer in the
Catonsville area of Baltimore County don't you find that being a conflict of interest? (I DO)

I would like to address the issue that you stated the residents of Catonsville are leaving the area and going to Ellicott City, Columbia and Baltimore City to dine to serve then-needs. Where do you get your facts from or are they your own opinion or is this another cry for wolf to help Craig Witzke attempt to change the state law to obtain a liquor license for the property that you want to develop.

Please tell me what all the Restaurants in Ellicott City, Columbia or Baltimore City have to offer that is drawing all of the residents out ofCatonsville. In Columbia you mostly have chain restaurants where you do not get the personalized service that you get in an independently owned restaurant. Chain restaurants want to get you in and out to turn those tables as quick as they can. Baltimore City is the same way unless you go to little Italy or to the Canton area. As far as Ellicott City what do they have? The Phoenix is more of a bar then a restaurant. La Palapas Mexican restaurant is more of a bar and if you check with Howard County Police on how many calls they get at that place you would be surprised. So you have Coco Lane, Jordan's Steak house or the new place Rumor Mill which is Asian-Fusion. Besides that what great restaurants do they have that is the big draw?

People are going to go out to the restaurant of their choice and if there is a wait the majority of the time they will wait why. Because by the time they get back into their vehicle and drive to another restaurant they could have been seated and there is no guarantee when they get to the next restaurant that there isn't a wait there unless the food is no good and no one is there. Where would you like to go? To a restaurant where it is filled and has a fifteen minute wait or a restaurant that is not filled and has plenty of seating available. The restaurant that is filled must be doing something right.

The statement in the letter that you sent to me and my wife Mr. Witzke that stated that you bought the properties across the street from Ships Cafe is to continue your effort to revitalize the Catonsville Area by offering more dining experiences. That you have been contacted by several restaurant owners that are interested in leasing your property but that they would have to have a liquor license before they would conceder.
Lets be perfectly honest Mr. Witzke you are now a land developer who is more interested in how much money you can make off of leasing to a restaurant with a liquor license then several boutique shops. As far as being honest Mr.Witzke the one restaurant owner in the Canton area of Baltimore City who was interested in opening another restaurant in Catonsville in your project used the same Maryland State Law to stop a restaurant by the name of Rope Walk form opening in Canton. But now would like to see the law changed.

To address the issue that you have been contacted by several entrepreneurs to open a
Bring Your Own Alcohol restaurant. This is ok by Maryland State Law and the Baltimore
County Liquor Board. You as the property owner leasing to this type of restaurant and the restaurant owner are still under Maryland Law are not relinquished from all liquor laws.
This type of restaurant must control minors from consuming alcohol on the premises,
allowing their customers to become so intoxicated that they would be driving what is
prohibited by law, disorderly conduct, assaults, fights etc.

Mr. Witzke you stated in your letter that with in the next few years the Catonsville area will be going through some major changes with the Promenade Restaurant Park being developed by Mr. Whalen and if it were opened today that it would flourish at the expense of the existing restaurants that are already in the Catonsville area. But if we act now and open several more restaurants in Catonsville before the Promenade opens that the citizens who do dine out will come to as you say the Quaint and Charming Old Catonsville men the Bright and Shiny new center. Who are you trying to kid. Number one again you were on the Baltimore County Planning When Mr. Whalen
proposed his project to the Catonsville community and approved the project. Now that
you are a land developer you are trying to suggest to Sharon and I and the elected
officials of Baltimore County that we must beat Mr. Whalen to the punch first.
I strongly disagree with your suggestion on me other side of the coin we allow several other restaurants to open with liquor license and when the promenade does open there wont be enough customers to fill the existing restaurants in Catonsville.
Besides the Maryland State Law which in your opinion is hampering your effort there is one question that hasn't been answered. Where is there a liquor license to be obtained?
Mr. Whalen has bought two from this district, will be allowed a few more because of his project and was allowed to move two or three over to the Westside from the eastside. Mr. Whalen will have approx. 7-9 liquor licenses. This will mean adding 7 to 9 more restaurants to the Catonsville area.

Mr. Witzke let me make this suggestion to you. If you feel that more of a variety of
restaurants are needed in Catonsville find a buyer for some of the ones that are already in Catonsville and are for sale. I know of three. Do your homework.

The last couple of points that I would like to address of your letter regarding the fact that our relationship as neighbors is less then desirable and that the fact that I do not support your vision as to the revitalization of the Catonsville is not true.
Mr. Witzke you and I sat down in the old hardware store the first week of November
2006. At that time you expressed to me your vision of Strawberry Fields of Catonsville and asked for my opinion of what else would I think would go over well in your project. I was very supportive of the Strawberry Fields project and suggested to you about a Star-Bucks, a card store that had candy, flowers etc., and an upper scale grocery store. I was very supportive of your project until you asked me how I would feel if you were to attempt to obtain a liquor license for the hardware store. At that time I did tell you that I would not support a liquor license and at that time I informed you of the Maryland State Law.

I further suggested to you reverse the situation and you and your wife had built Ships Cafe and along came Mr. Andrews and his wife and wanted to develop Muhrs property and circumvent the law and put a restaurant with a liquor license. Of course your response was I would welcome it. Lets really be honest if it were reversed you would fight me tooth and nail and would use the existing law to your benefit. This is when as you put it the good neighbor ended because I wouldn't support you or anybody else trying to place a liquor license across the street from Ships Cafe.
Mr. Witzke lets get down to the real issue. You and your wife don't want to own
and run a restaurant like Sharon and I if you did there are several available right here in Catonsville. You want a liquor license for your land development for the sole purpose of increasing the rent of the building.

Sharon and I have been contacted by several other restaurant owners in the
Catonsville area. They have the same opinion that any additional restaurants or liquor licenses are unnecessary due to Mr. Whelan's Promenade restaurant park already
approved by Baltimore County and set in place.

One more issue about Ships Cafe, Sharon and Jim Andrews supporting the
Catonsville community the amount of contributions that we give Saint Marks, the PTA,
all the schools in the district, the Fourth of July committee, fund raisers I could go on and on so please don't suggest that my wife and I are selfish and are only interested in our own concerns as you suggested.

repectfully yours,

James Andrews


Councilman Stephen G Moxley
Delegate James Malone jr
Delegate Steve DeBoy
Delegate Adrienne Jones
Senator Edward Kasemeyer
County Executive Jim Smith
The Greater Chamber of Commerce
Archdiocese of Baltimore


Craig W. said...

I would like to address a few points from Mr. Andrews' response, I appologize for being all over the place, but, I am trying to answer his concerns for all to see.:

First it has been an Honor and a Privelage serving as a volunteer on the Baltimore County Planning Board. I accepted the position so that I could learn about Responsible development and work to incorporate it into the Town that is so dear to my heart.

Liquor Licenses are not something that the planning board usually deals with. I was aware of the 300ft Law. I think it is a outdated law. I think it's primary purpose is to restrict competition and I will continue my efforts to see that it is repealed.

I am sure that Mr. Andrews is very proud of the fact that he "saved" Catonsville from the two business men that bought a liquor license and tried to open an "Iron Bridge" type establishment on Frederick Rd. I am sure that the people from Catonsville that travel to the Iron Bridge in Ellicott City are very pleased that they can still drive to Ellicott City on a regular basis for this fine dining experience. But, think of all of the time and gas that they will save by not having to drive all of the way to Baltimore National Pike when they need to buy a Matress. (I have nothing against Matress stores, I just feel that most people don't visit them more than once a year. Whereas many of us eat in Restauants at least once every couple of months)

Regarding the perceived conflict of interest of my being on the planning board.
1. If anything it has made it tougher for me to get anything done as county employees always seem reluctant to work with me for fear that it might look like I am getting preferential treatment.
2. I have turned in my resignation to the Planning Board. (It is a Volunteer position that takes a great deal of time and often impedes my personal business)I was asked to stay until a "suitable replacement" was found.

Mr Andrews asked me where I got my information that people are leaving Catonsville to dine - I got it right here on this blog.
He states that there are 3 restaurants in Catonsville with Liqour Licenses for sale. I have contacted several owners, and brokers noone knows what Jim is talking about other than "Everything is for sale - at a price"
I am not even going to address the Promonade - other than stating that if it is built, as currently proposed, it has the potential to be the best thing this state has ever seen.
We worked very hard to find something that would appeal to the majority of people. I think that we have a real winner with Sean Dunworth and his ***The Catonsville Gourmet Market & Fine Foods*** the hardware store was too small for a major market, having a Market with some seating and BYOB seems like the perfect answer.

I started this blog as a means to include the community in the process of rehabiliting Strawberry Fields and to inform anyone that was interested in the progress. Thank you for reading. I hope that you find it enilghtening.

Anonymous said...

The response doesn't surprise me at all. Jimmy has always been bullheaded. He must be very worried about the place going into Muhrs Hardware. He should have embraced your Mexican restarant.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Witzke - My family and I thank you for all of your efforts to do the right things for Catonsville. We anxiously await the new Market. In the meantime we will eat at Jennings, Chef P or drive right by Ships. He must be delusional, I haven't seen a line in front of his place in over a year. Keep up your efforts The properties look great. Sam

Anonymous said...

Craig - This guy is a jerk! Why does he think he can come in and take a bar and expand it into a house next door and serve food, And then not want you to have a restaraunt in the building across the street? Did Jennings stop him from opening up? No. And don't let him try and stop you. The word is out about this guy. He should focus on his own business. TN

April said...

Don't forget Indian Delite ( as a wonderful place to eat as well, that's on Frederick Road with great food!

Anonymous said...

a few words of advise for mr.ships...have a couple of cold ones and chiiiiill ouuuuut dude!
keep up the good work craig!
we are looking forward to the new place!!!
ps. i'll be sure to wave to mr.ships when i go by!

Anonymous said...

I think that the owner's of Ship's are right. They invested a lot of money in their business and shouldn't have to worry about the competition.

Catonsville cannot support another restaurant.

Stephen P.

Anonymous said...

Without reverting to name-calling, I think Mr. Andrews is missing the point entirely here.

My wife and I live in Catonsville. We aren't food snobs, but we enjoy variety in our meals, which means we bounce from genre to genre on a daily basis. Having only a handful of decent restaurants on Main street means we spend more time leaving the neighborhood for variety and non-chain oriented restaurants, which we prefer. Having a sucessful concentration of restaurants means an area (such as our Main Street) becomes a destination, which is the thing that will keep customers coming back (and coming from farther away than just Catonsville).

Mr. Andrews should look at the bustling restaurant scenes downtown, in Fell's Point, Federal Hill, and over in Canton. Having one good restaurant in our town is great, until the regular patrons get sick of the menu. Having two restaurants across the street from each other is better, because A. if one is full, people can go to the other, and B. people flock to areas where multiple restaurants are concentrated. We are Americans. We want choices, because we're fickle Wal-Mart shoppers, not Soviet citizens waiting in lines for soap and toilet paper. Look at every homogenized strip mall erected in the last ten years: there's a mexican chain, a steakhouse chain, and an italian chain. Around them are smaller fast food chains. None of them are hurting; on the contrary, there's a two-hour wait outside. But there are choices, and that makes us happy.

Mr. Andrews misses the point that Ellicott City is a destination, with public parking, stores, and restaurants that shoppers can stop at for a drink, a snack, or a full meal, and they can have their choice between an upscale steak house, an upscale french meal, several midpriced sitdown restaurants, several different pub-style menus, or just coffee and a sandwich. The fact that there is a successful wine bar on Main Street in Ellicott City should prove to Mr. Andrews that people are seeing Ellicott City as a destination, and coming from farther away than just down the street: They go to hang out and relax, something that doesn't happen in Downtown Catonsville.

We are at a critical moment here in Catonsville: I believe the Promenade will kill off a lot of the existing business on Main Street, and the quality of shops will deteriorate until we have cut-rate liquor stores, pawn shops and other undesirable businesses that will do nothing to improve the quality of life here in our town. Having several quality restaurants will buttress the community, bring people back downtown, and make our town someplace to visit repeatedly. One only need look at Main Street after 9PM to see a deserted stretch of road; what if it was a bustling strip with several well-lit restaurants, ample parking, and a feeling of community?

There is strength in numbers in local restaurants. When an area has enough of one thing to reach a critical mass then people will start showing up. People will come from the other side of the country and the other side of town to check out the scene. And if the food is good, they'll keep coming back.

I also think that Mr. Andrews is deluded if he believes that the Promenade will not destroy his daily business, especially if he is the only restaurant on Main Street.

And to Stephen P., who claims that Catonsville can't support another restaurant: Yes, it can. Thinking like that will get you exactly what you deserve: The Promenade and a dead Main Street.

Bill D.

Anonymous said...

While I applaud the work that Mr. Andrews has put into building his business, I agree that he is totally missing the point. The fact that he is latching onto the liquor license as the only issue is such a narrow focus when the main issue is that our main street is dying and if there isn't an APB put out for a way to bring new vitality into it, his business is going to dry up just like everyone else's.

It's not only Ellicott City which has made a success out of multiple locally owned restaurants and shops--look at Hamden for a successful model of what can be done if the commitment to create a local destination is present. The concept that our main street area is a one horse town--two at best if you count Indian Delite--is ridiculous. It's sad that Mr. Andrews cannot see that having other strong anchors would only benefit him in the long run.

Jen L.

Anonymous said...

a note to stephen p. and
mr. andrews...
where would our way of life be without it?
as a business owner i thrive on competition!
it helps keep me on my game!!!

Anonymous said...

Competition is a great thing. But please, the publication of these letters and the indirect personal bickering just makes me think twice about giving any business to either parties or their interests.

Anonymous said...

Jim Andrews made some interesting, and in my mind, accurate observations. He "rolled the dice" and purchased a dive. With herculean efforts he made it into a thriving business. He did this having done "due diligence," learning that only he and Jennings could sell alcohol within the 300' zone surrounding the church. Should he have the value of his investment reduced by facilitating a tenant of Craig's project getting licensed?

I want to help create a village that can maintain it's charm. This requires a substantial improvement in dining and retail opportunities.

Throwing stones at a successful businessman who has "voted with his dollars" and created a popular eatery creates rancor. It accomplishes absolutely nothing.

If you want Craig to get a license, start a campaign. Make it a "single issue" litmus test for our elected officials: either they support the license, or you vote against them.

Do something other than fuss about a successful businessman.

Real world it looks like Craig has made some missteps. Looks like he "leapt before he looked."

Going on about personalities diverts our attention from creative problem solving. It might help you feel better-but it doesn't help.

Steve Garrison CHS '69 said...

After I posted a comment this morning-"Jim Andrews made some interesting, and in my mind accurate observations..." I asked myself why did I do so anonymously?

I couldn't think of a good answer.

Maybe it is that we in Catonsvillage are unaccustomed to controversy.

Perhaps we are not inclined to be subjected to "the noise" that often is created when we voice an opinion that does not sit well with some of our neighbors.

I'm not comfortable operating as "anoymous" in "my lttle town."

Having grown up in Catonsville, I have a wonderful sense of place. A sense of belonging, a sense that I have been blessed over the years to be in this place. I have experienced much joy. The pain I have endured has been made more bearable by having endured it here.

Catonsville is in a phase that is crucial to it's future. I owe this town more than anonymity.

Thank you,

Steve Garrison CHS '69
402 Oak Court
443.829.0723 w
410.788.3580 h before 9P

Steve Garrison CHS '69 said...

How can calling someone "bullheaded" and "a jerk" do anything positive for Catonsville?

Sure, it's a free country, and all that, but beating up one of our fellow villagers is to hasten the decline of Catonsville. And to speak out of fear.

If you want to know what Jim Andrews is all about, go talk to him. If you don't want to patronize Ships OK.

This town is not about what's wrong with the people in it.

It's about how everyone can be persuaded to make Catonsville thrive.

Steve Garrison CHS '69 said...

About the restaurant back and forth: Lots of "venting," but more heat than light.

Anyone interested in bringing a cyber-focus to Catonsville? Providing a wireless service in the Village?

Could we take advantage of our easy access, safe environment, proximity to schools, and high computer use by residents to attract website designers, software writers, computer repair techs, network designers and so forth?

Could this bring a desirable group of folks into Main Street?

Could this be a partial answer to the lack of activity in the evening and late hours?

Anybody want to talk about this with me?

I'm into ideas. Let's think of ways to make Catonsville unique.

Thank you.


443.829.0723 w
410.788.3580 h before 9P

Anonymous said...

we need a rockin coffee shop in the village! one that is open late enough to grab a coffee and dessert after dinner.nothing beats walking from one establishment to the next!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't he understand that the more Catonsville has to offer, the more people that will come? That only means that he will do more business.

Tess said...

What the heck?? I love Ships, and can't wait for some up-scale places to open. I cannot understand why Catonsville doesn't loudly demand a better community. Our village is a joke right now. Walk to the village-right. I have been approached and frightened many times by our parade of mentally ill people walking up and down main street. Our residential community is heavily weighted with social services-enough already. I don't want to live in the next downtown Irvington. A once lovely community gone to drugs and gangs. For God sakes, wake up people, support any new growth in the right direction. Of course we can use more restaurants!! The cheesy mattress store looks awful, seedy in there-yeech. The doper store, while amusing, is another low class look for our quaint town. We can do so much better.

April said...

What is "the promenade?" Is that the main chunk of Frederick Road, or is it referring to some other area? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The Promenade is a mega- million dollar project that is being propsed to be built between Wilkens Ave, and Frederick Ave. along the Beltway.
It is planned to have two hotels as well as many stores and restaurants.

Steve Garrison CHS '69 said...

I agree with Tess that Catonsville needs some changes. The decline that shows on Main Street can be reversed-if we put our mind to it.

The mattress shop is a mess-a shabby, barely fitted out space with 2 rows of mattresses and a used desk.

Friendly's is a dump. Service is poor, and it is dirty. The E-Z Driving storefront near Newburg is an embarassment.

Pressure can be brought to bear on these below standard businesses. But a mechanism is needed.


A computer focus was suggested the other day, but not a single reply-pro or con-was generated.

robyn cavanagh said...

Thanks all for so many perspectives and deep concern for the health and development of our "home" town -- whether since birth or for those of us who moved more recently.

New developments are building mixed use areas to replicate what we already have.

I agree that having more dining options creates a destination, so please add some more! Our whole street anxiously awaits the new market!

It would be very interesting to explore the high tech concentration. That would be a nice compliment to the technology focus at UMBC.

I believe that the Promenade holds promise, yet is a wish list of what we need. There are no guarantees that the "high end" retail will ultimately be the businesses that fill up the space. Mr. Whalen is looking for commercial zoning changes. But let's be clear, there is no guanartee who the tenants will be. Additionally, I believe we must be very cautious about the traffic ramifications for Frederick Road. If the Village isn't developed simultaneously and in some level of partnership with the Promenade -the village might suffer a tremendous blow. The real "main street," a feel which is being recreated at the Promenade, might be destroyed.

I would love any of the businesses they discuss - Harris Teeter, national book store, and Irish pub -- but worry that they cannot come through. Wasn't the restaurant site where Friendly's sits sold to the public as a "national chain" which would change the focus of the village? Did people expect Friendly's?

I have nothing against a good burger and a milkshake -- but I hope for more options. I hope for a signature main street and a destination. I hope for a bustling center. I believe the first bustling center should be maintained on Frederick Road and that there should be wise, repsonsible development in the potential properties which directly affect our quality of life. -- Robyn Cavanagh

Anonymous said...

Mr Ships
You had a five year plan - what now?

Anonymous said...

I will never eat at ships again. I can't believe how naive he is being. We leave 1-2 times a week to go eat in Fed Hill or Ellicott City. When he was listing ALL of the restaurant opportunities in Ellicott City didn't he realize he was PROOVING YOUR point...unbelievable!!!

AND what an ego trip about how reverent his life has been!

steve whalen said...

I wish Craig Witzke nothing but the best in his Frederick Road efforts. He's cobbled together a valuable parcel with real potential which deserves quality development. His market/restaurant concept is an outstanding idea, which, properly executed, will much benefit the Village corridor.

My thoughts on the whole liquor license issue are public and well known. It borders on absurdity that the commercial core of our business district is so hamstrung by archaic and anticompetitive legislation. Restricting restaurants with liquor licenses on Frederick Road is just plain dumb.

Responding to Robyn Cavanaugh's concerns, which I do not dismiss lightly, there are no ironclad "guarantees" regarding the Promenade's composition. But as a lifelong Catonsville resident, I will be tenacious in doing this project right. Whalen Properties has a 27 year track record --right here-- of doing exactly what we say we will. Given its location, given the necessary critical mass, given the great community anchors in the area, given our painstaking and comprehensive efforts to plan it right (especially regarding traffic impacts), we will bring it off in a way that Catonsville will benefit from and support. "Upscale" is my mantra; I will absolutely settle for nothing less.

Nice sentiments, right, to dramatically improve the odds?

Use a world class architect that has done this kind of high-energy, intensive, mixed-use project all over the globe (but lives here and knows our community first hand). Make a commitment to top flight architecture that attracts higher-end tenants (gotta invest more $$ if you expect to earn higher rents). Retain a nationally-acclaimed retail consultant who knows how to put the appropriate tenant mix together AND has ongoing relationships (and therefore credibility) with many of those retailers from years of doing this kind of work. Actively seek a mix of retailers and restaurants that's not just another mirror image of all the shopping centers around here. Do a state-of-the art, green-certified, environmentally sensitive, mixed use, synergistic development, not another damn 1990s, one story mall.

And... get over our friggin' collective Catonsville inferiority complex.

Can we dare imagine a world-class project... in Catonsville? Why does that have to be an oxymoron? This is a GREAT place to "live, work, play, dine, shop, stay." We need to get the message out! We need to believe it ourselves! We're the richest state in the US and within spitting distance of the richest county (HoCo) in the state. BRAC is coming shortly to our area and will bring both challenges and real opportunities. Shame on us if we can't pull this off and do it very well!!

There must and will be a strong relationship between the Promenade and Frederick Road. Bill D made some good points, but the expectation that the Promenade will hurt Frederick Road is simply wrongheaded. I've got 3 existing projects and millions of dollars invested there, and I surely have no intention of cutting my own throat...

When Harborplace was originally proposed, the restauranteurs in Little Italy went ballistic. They figured the added competition would be their demise (Jim, pay attention here!!). They even tried to kill the project at the ballot box. Fortunately for them, the city's voters supported the development, albeit by the thinnest of margins.

Guess what happened?

Harborplace brought people downtown who never thought of venturing there. When they realized downtown's possibilities and options, they went exploring, and patronized a lot more than just that one development. No one benefitted more than Little Italy (despite the shortsightedness of its own business owners).

Sound familiar?

We're going to need to charge Promenade rents of $35-$40/square foot. And with great design, good marketing, and a little bit of luck, we'll get it for a world class development. Once people realize that there's a neat, new, different project in Catonsville (yes, Catonsville!!) drawing that level of interest, other retailers and business folks will begin to look at our community in general, and Frederick Road in particular, since it's so close by.

By investing $$ in existing properties on Frederick Road, commercial property owners can then attract users who may not pay $40, but might well pay in the mid-twenties to be in this community. Our project will help motivate upgrades to the Village, when forward-looking folks see that there is money to be made... in Catonsville.

Frederick Road and the Promenade will never have the same flavor -- and that's a good thing. We are not interested in more of the same. We're intent on adding a complementary and attractive new dimension to Catonsville, not destroying its charm. Both can co-exist and benefit from a symbiotic relationship, because we're nearby to the Village, but still separate from it.

We've got a unique location tucked between the Beltway and Spring Grove's institutional use, where we believe we can pull it off nicely. It's the only spot anywhere in 21228 where this type development could possibly work (for that matter, find me a mile of Beltway frontage and 50 acres anywhere in this region).

Just like at Harborplace, when patrons come to our project and finally start to think of Catonsville as a place to go TO, rather than a place to drive thru, they'll start exploring what else our community has to offer; Frederick Road is the logical place to benefit from that attention.

We are hopeful that Baltimore County will soon launch a first-class professional planning study for Frederick Road (following up the Catonsville 2000 effort 15 years ago) to evaluate, make recommendations, and implement a strategy for the betterment of the Village core, relating its redevelopment to the coming of the Promenade in 4-5 years, for the mutual benefit of both, as integral parts of the same fantastic Catonsville community.

The glass is more than half full, folks. It's a great time to be in Catonsville. Stay tuned.

(I welcome comments and questions. Call me at 410.747.2900 or e-mail

If you want to make a meaningful contribution to the dialogue, have the courage to include your name and contact info -- enough of this "anonymous" baloney!!

And if you haven't seen our plans, I'll be happy to meet with you, your family, friends and neighbors, at your convenience. Just call me. Thanks.

Steve Whalen

Anonymous said...

Are the couple from Ship's still causing trouble?

Anonymous said...

Jim Andrews is behaving as a scared school boy. He is very well aware that he is going to lose business to Catonsville Gourmet. As a recent employee, I can tell you that we were told that if we went "across the street" to get a part time job that we would not be allowed to work at Ships.
My advice to Catonsville Gourmet is to apppreciate your staff for what they do for you each day and to treat your patrons as family. This is something that is definately diminishing at Ships Cafe.

Anonymous said...

We actually loved Ships; however, we are most dismayed that our favorite bartender and wait staff have been let go. We will most definitely no longer patonize the establishment and look forward to whomever opens a place that treats its employees with respect. We will not return until we see this happening.


Anonymous said...

I can't understand why they are laying people off right now either. I believe that it is a huge misstep. Ship's Cafe, should focus on what they can do to improve their business, instead of worrying about other businesses.

In a few weeks the Catonsville Gourmet will open it's doors , judging from people's responses, there wil be a lot of "over flow" business. I would think that a business this close would be beefing up their staff, not cutting it, to prevent getting a bad rep for poor service.

Drive by Matthew's 1600, the Candle Light Inn or Dimitri's, any evening at dinner time, they are packed. Catonsville ceratinly can support more restaurants. We would all like to see people to dine at any of the restauarants on Frederick Rd, including Ships Cafe and Sports Pub.

I truly hope that the Mr. and Mrs. Andrews will see the big picture, before it is too late and that they are able to use the opportunity to grow their business.


On the Lighter Side!