We were saddened to learn at the Town Meeting this evening that our favorite hangout in downtown Elkton, Judy’s Java, closed. “We had our final night Friday,” Kathy Wareham informed the commissioners. “It hurts to see the decline. The way we are losing businesses in Elkton, it’s heartbreaking. . . It is very disturbing to see the empty shops in town,” she added.
In an a discussion with the commissioners about business conditions, Katy told them that the recent loss of Triangle Health was a major problem since she had dozens of regular customers from that agency. Triangle didn’t go out of business, they expanded so they moved out to Route 40, Commissioner Jablonski pointed out, but Kathy noted that didn’t help the central business district. Commissioner Storke talked about what the town had tried to do keep over 200 county workers on Main Street early in 2008 because the board recognized the economic impact that would have. “That was the coldest meeting [county commissioners] I have ever been to. They had already made up their mind,” Commissioner Storke noted. “If you go to Bel Air, there are so many specialty shops and Elkton can be like that,” the owner of Judy’s Java encouragingly concluded.
Earlier in the meeting Commissioner Givens asked about a report that was on the desk of each of the board members about downtown business conditions. To that Commissioner Jablonski indicated that as the Elkton Alliance Director she had prepared the document for the state so she was sharing it with the board. Thus when the discussion about Judy’s Java came up at the end of the session, she provided some of the data. “Downtown Elkton is holding its own,” the Elkton Alliance Director said. The vacancy rate is 8% for downtown, the Big Elk Mall is 26% and the Village of Elkton is 22%.” A citizen later asked if there weren’t 10 vacant buildings in the business area and lawyers and bail bondsmen made up a lot of the other occupancies. Commissioner Givens added that the past is the past and we’ve got to recognize where we are. “What are we going to do to revamp,” he asked? Additional discussion about the central business district followed Kathy’s presentation and we’ll have much more on that in future pieces over the next couple of days.
Kathy Wareham, the owner brought new energy and an expanded focus to what was already a great coffeehouse for any community, building on a product established by Judy Hart. The comfortable gathering spot was approaching its second anniversary in May. Kathy assembled an outstanding staff of young people. They served up coffee, tea, and specialty drinks, but they had more than the brews including creative sandwiches. And they weren’t going to just let Elkton drink Coffee. They provided a place to gather on Friday evenings, for it was a coffeehouse that allowed people to express themselves with entertainment, readings, and so much more.
That old 1950s firehouse was a comfortable place to sit around and meet people. Anytime we had to meet someone in Elkton, we always said meet us at Judy’s Java. It had the right atmosphere and ambiance. It was something for Elkton to be proud of. Such fine coffeehouses are usually found in college towns and places that have lots of tourists like North East. Such gathering spots are an important ingredient in revitalizing a town, a place for the community to gather and meet people
We’ll miss Judy’s Java and the great staff of young people providing excellent service and conversation in Elkton. Thanks Kathy, Shannon Sharon and the entire gang for an excellent two years.