The brave entrepreneurs who operate the shops and restaurants that make downtown Frederick such a charming and vibrant place are getting ready to reopen their businesses.

We can only hope that this is going to work well.

Gov. Larry Hogan has announced a plan to allow Maryland businesses to resume some operations, as soon as next week if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline. But the first phase of activities will be strictly limited, just allowing small businesses to offer curbside pickup again.

Marlene England is co-owner of two retail gems in the historic district, Curious Iguana bookstore and Dancing Bear toy store. Her stores were doing curbside pickup up until Hogan announced the shelter-in-place order in March and forbade nonessential businesses from doing any services besides delivery and mail orders.

But while Hogan is getting ready to ease the guidelines in place, England and other business owners around Frederick recently told News-Post reporter Erika Riley that they don’t know how the public will react, or how the experience of shopping and dining out could be changed for the long term.

It is a question that bedevils many experts in the retail business. The Atlantic magazine’s website recently polled dozens of analysts and business leaders, and their conclusions about the likely future of the sector was grim. The magazine said:

“We are entering a new evolutionary stage of retail, in which big companies will get bigger, many mom-and-pop dreams will burst, chains will proliferate and flatten the idiosyncrasies of many neighborhoods, more economic activity will flow into e-commerce, and restaurants will undergo a transformation unlike anything the industry has experienced since Prohibition.”

The Atlantic reported that the U.S. Commerce Department said that retail spending in March collapsed by the largest number on record. But Amazon, Walmart, Costco and Target are all reporting strong sales.

The independent retail stores, which are one of the pillars of downtown Frederick, are the ones that are suffering.

Similarly, the independent restaurants, the other pillar of our downtown business community, have been closed for weeks except for pickup and delivery orders. Even when guidelines ease, social distancing rules are expected to continue at least into summer.

Seating will be limited to probably half of the current capacity of the eateries. Restauranteurs will be faced with the problem of keeping their businesses solvent with much less ability to serve customers.

Again from the Atlantic story:

“While mom-and-pops and department stores will close, those industries that survive and are resilient to e-commerce encroachment—such as grocers and restaurants—are more likely, in the short term, to be dominated by chains that survive the flood.”

The chains and the big e-commerce stores are the ones that have the financial reserves to weather weeks of little or no business. Few smaller restaurants or retailers do.

Helen Propheter, director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, told our reporter that she doesn’t know how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the county in the long term. Nobody does.

“Frederick County has amazing businesses with lots of creativity and passion and grit. And that’s what we’re going to need to get through this,” Propheter said. “Unfortunately, there’s going to be some businesses that aren’t going to bounce back.”

We love shopping and eating in downtown Frederick, and we hope that these hardy souls can keep their businesses going for the long term. Certainly almost all of our merchants and restauranteurs have a track record of innovation and great customer service.

England said she is optimistic that most people will come back to downtown Frederick.

“I feel like when the time is right and it’s safe to shop downtown, that folks will continue to be very supportive of the downtown businesses,” England said. “That means so much to us.”

John Fieseler, the executive director of Visit Frederick, is expecting that Frederick tourism will take a big hit this year, but that the county is well positioned to recover well. Tourism generally has been decimated, but he believes that it will come back.

He told the News-Post’s Mallory Panuska that as a regional destination not dependent on visitors arriving by air, Frederick could see an earlier revival.

We hope both of them are right, and that our beloved historic downtown and the entire region will prove more resilient than national trends might project. But we all know so little about how the pandemic will progress. At this point, hope is all we have.

(45) comments


Viruses fall apart within days if they don't infect someone, and it is believed humans are the only source of this virus. If you succeed in not getting infected, then you are actually helping to end the pandemic. Please encourage everyone to do their part if they can.


Most stores I have been to have been good with social distancing, and I bring my own hand sanitizer. Good stores: Wegmans (my source for hand sanitizer) and the nearby WalMart, Giant Eagle (7th St), and Weiss (Opposumtown).

Guy T. Ashton

My wife and I own one of those downtown shops. Allowing us to sell with curbside pick-up is helpful- but how is it you're so safe to go into a crowed WalMart or buy geraniums at Home Depot, but if you come into my shop to buy a spatula you're risking your life??? We may have 2-3 people in our shop at any given time. It is unfair and not rational- the governor is picking the winners and losers.


Not sure, but I think it has to do with what is designated essential - like groceries and hardware, though I get my hardware online now.


Del. Cox is leading his constituents to jail or to the hospital. Take your pick. And the choice isn't on an election ballot this time.


I hope the NAC 11 stakeholders have seen the light. Maybe they aren't as essential as they once believed. Maybe they aren't essential at all. I hope you learn something from this. I doubt it. But, maybe. You aren't the only people that matter in Frederick no matter what you used to believe. Not even in the same breath as essential people.


So, apparently Del. Dan Cox is a real threat to the health, safety and well-being of Maryland. Politics aside, he's using this pandemic for his personal political gain ... not for the welfare of his constituents. The news media AND voters have proved it. Your political time is short-lived, Cox.


I'm a conservative republican. However, the ONLY common sense governor right now in our region is a democrat from Pennsylvania. "HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf attacked local elected officials making plans to reopen in defiance of his shutdown orders as cowards deserting the pandemic battlefield, threatening Monday to block aid to rebellious Pennsylvania counties in an escalating political fight over his administration’s handling of the coronavirus." The spread of the pandemic and its deadly effects are left on the souls that defy common sense, personal accountability and responsibility. Gov. Wolf is doing the right things and speaking about reality. Those that deny it will be the first to go. And good riddance. Natural selection in progress.

Greg F

Well, we can see how it's going to go by this example from Cape Cod...where people just act like idiots....much like what I noted earlier. So...which one are you going to of those who acts like an imbecile when stores open or act rationally? Right now I see a mass of imbeciles.


We are a creative, collaborative, and very giving community. We love our unique little mom and pops. They are a big part of what makes Frederick, Frederick.

How can we support them more, particularly the retail?

Before you order a book or anything from Amazon or the like,

Call a local retailer and ask if they can get if for you.

Sure, it may take a little longer, cost a couple of dollars more, and may mean you pick it up—but your efforts and your dollars will support a LOCAL business owner.

Supporting LOCAL business owners make our city more resilient and builds better community.


I imagine you're still collecting a paycheck with which you can use to support these businesses. Remember, 33 million unemployed and many of those ineligible for unemployment payments or even the stimulus cash.

Greg F would rather have what...that he stops patronizing businesses they need the cash to keep people employed, he is trying to find ways to help and spending is a good way to get people working again. Sorry you may not be working, but seeming to hold a grudge on those who are isn’t the answer.


I'm only suggesting do what you can. Personal budgets are tight and personal. We all have to make tough decisions. Weigh the pros and cons. If this community gives you comfort and quality...then it's worth the extra investment.


This ridiculous lockdown will prove to be an absolute death sentence for many small businesses -- which include more than just restaurants and retail! Expect to see the predictable empty storefronts, bars and restaurants, but also empty office-building suites and some entire office buildings, medical and dental office suites, real-estate offices, and on and on. It'll be epic! And to think that the lockdown wasn't necessary to begin with makes it all the more INSANE!

Greg F

You walking about can be a death sentence for others.


If you think catching Covid is a death sentence, you should be the one staying home.

Greg F

That’s possible except when you need certain goods. Wear a mask and stop being stupid in regard to courtesies...or stay home. Wear a mask in businesses...or stay home. Wow you are callous...bless your heart.


fed-up - I'm not against masks or other temporary rules, I have stated that several times. What is it that you have to go out for that you can't get delivered? I go out to work everyday, so do many others, let us take the risk. If you are high risk or worried stay home, it's that simple. My buddy is doing well working for shipt or whatever delivering groceries, CVS is delivering meds. What is it that you have to go out for?


How’s that downtown hotel grant coming along?

Greg F

We won’t ever get close to normal if people keep acting like what was going on out there today. Self-centered azzhats in stores that don’t keep distances and like again in H-mart and Riverside Liquor today see no masks on some. Lowe’s was a sea of people buying anything not necessary and Walmart’s lot looked like Black Friday. Oh...the masks go OVER your dammmmmed nose too. Come on already!!!


Buy a self-contained space suit then, if you are uncomfortable.


^^^^^ Here lies the problem, ladies and gentlemen.

Greg F

You can follow directions and guidelines set for safety...or you can stay home.. How about that? You are part of the problem.


Nah, no reason to do that. I just won't shop in the stores where people don't wear masks.


You seem to spend a lot of time at H-Mart, Lowes, and Walmart. Isn't that adding to the crowd? Can you post a list of what we may and may not purchase while shopping? I can't find one in the governor's orders.[ninja]

Greg F

I left....immediately. I didn't go IN to wally-world as it was a zoo. Going for groceries is not against directives. Not wearing masks in stores (yes...there are still people who don't) is the issue. Walking around like you want to brush by inches away is not acceptable either. Gee you have zero common sense as what to do that hasn't already been put out there by the CDC, WHO and others?


Bosco - if the store sells it you can buy. SO you can go to Wal-Mart and just buy a shirt, other stores that sell shirts have to remain closed. Just stupid


I understand, but Doctor Fed Up was making a judgement call by saying people were buying, in his opinion, unneccesary items. I wanted the Doctor to produce a list of what is neccesary and what is not. I don't think the Doctor can. [ninja]

Comment deleted.
Greg F

Brainless acts of cowardice...way to act non human.


Less be honest for a moment even the most optimistic republican economists are forecasting 20% of the jobs lost will NEVER return after C19. Economists are saying the US and global economies will recover not in months but years possibly a decade or more without a second wave. This is no time to hope that a reality TV star will suddenly develop leadership skills, we need someone in charge who’s intelligent, measured and humble enough to delegate authority to intelligent people not just sycophants or family members who are hanging around on a WH power tripping.


Small, local stores will need to carry artisanal, hand crafted items that are not readily available with two clicks from an online site. It’s just the way of the world. Malls destroyed the beautiful big downtown department stores. Big box stores already destroyed the malls and most of the mom and pops. Online will replace much of the day to day shopping at the big box stores. Why go to Target for paper towels or a set of sheets when you can get them delivered to your door.


Uncertainty with a big dose of optimism. Frederick will recover and so will it's businesses. Shop local.




Retail was in trouble before coronavirus. Those that are around after the virus is dealt with may benefit from reduced competition, but until the virus is dealt with in a way that makes most people feel safe going out into crowded areas, retail of all sorts will struggle. Despite what the movies might say, just because you build it (or open it), it doesn't mean they will come.


Been to Lowes? Home Depot? Wal-Mart? Target? I have and I can tell you there are a lot of people that are not afraid of crowds.


For once I agree with you

Greg F

Exactly. They also don’t know how to wear masks properly or keep a distance at all. I really feel like pepper spraying a few that get too close.


Just try merely suggesting pepper spraying someone who isn't wearing their silly mask properly, and you just might end up with a fist in your face. I suggest you stay your pathetic punk ass indoors permanently.


Is that good or bad in your opinion rb?? Trump loves the Uneducated, they always agree with him. They used to anyway, I think he lost a few after he thought injecting Lysol was worth trying. How about you???🤪


Phy - I think it's bad that there are only a few stores to choose from and they don't enforce rules. I wish all stores were open so that I could have better choices.


rdtd5.... how much time are you spending at Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, and Target?


I don't know. 3-5 times a week I guess I go out.


Rbt, I hope you were kidding. You know that people who do that are keeping the virus going and are making the shutdowns last longer.

Greg F

Good...hope you have good health insurance when you end up in the ER.


I just watched a segment on re-opening a small store that made me think....the owner is letting in 2 people at a time, with Xs on the sidewalk outside where you can stand. Soooo going in just to "see what the store is like" will be a quick trip unless you are very resilient to being asked what you are looking for, possibly repeatedly, by employees with nothing better to do you... not buying. How long will people be content waiting on Xs to "shop local." Yike.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem> TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.