ELKTON — Main Street made great strides in 2018, but two businesses are hoping to change the face of Howard Street this summer.

Last Saturday, Brookbend Interiors and Elk River Brewing Company debuted their two latest expansions, both utilizing the broad space behind their buildings. Brookbend Interiors launched its monthly Howard Street Market, showcasing furniture, home decor and more, while Elk River Brewing Company opened its biergarten for the first time.

Both events breathed a new life into Howard Street, a road that runs parallel to East Main Street and offers several unmetered parking spaces. The area is often used for parking for Elkton Little League games, since the field is right across the street.

From across the street at the farmer’s market stands, Matt Gaffney said Saturday was “one heck of a party,” and he was able to reap some of the benefits. Gaffney has jumpstarted the Elkton Farmers Market last year, and has been steadily growing his customer base since.

“My busiest days are Fridays through Mondays, but on that Saturday, my sales went up 30%,” he said. “On a typical Saturday, I get 75 to 100 people. But that night, I had people stop by and pick up a few things for dinner.”

Gaffney tries to sell produce as local as possible, mostly from the Sprout Family farm in Rising Sun. Whatever he can’t grow, he buys from other producers, including Amish farmers in Oxford, Pa.

The Elkton Little League games always brings the Elkton Farmers Market an influx of customers. But last Saturday with both Elk River Brewing Company’s beer party and the Brookbend Interiors market, there were more people stopping by for things to put on the dinner plate.

Brookbend Interiors hopes to create more of a draw to downtown Elkton with its Howard Street market, which will run on the second Saturday of the month until October as a trial period. Owner Steven Jennings said that First Friday events are the main event in town, especially in the wintertime.

“It does inspire people to do some shopping, but we’d love to show that Elkton is not just a winter town. We’re a 365-days-a-year town,” Jennings said. “It’s also a great way to expand, since we’ve already done so much within our four walls.”

So far, the test showed great results, as sales that Saturday were exponentially higher than usual, he added.

The inaugural Brookbend Market helped put the street in the spotlight, since it goes unnoticed except for Little League games. Jennings, who runs Brookbend Interiors with his husband John Palmer, said that customers have driven past the shop and not realize there’s more than just metered street parking on East Main Street.

“Howard Street is not really realized,” Jennings said this week. “We have other businesses and restaurants next door, we have the space, we have access to the water — why not take advantage of it?”

Next door, Elk River Brewing Company had people gathered to sip beer, listen to live music, or play cornhole or throw axes at a pop-up range. The brewery hosted a craft beer party, inviting the four other Cecil County breweries to come and serve guests. The hope is to make it an annual event.

Renovations to Elk River Brewing Company’s rear space started earlier this year. There’s picnic tables and other chairs to invite people to sit and relax. Garage doors installed in the lower level were opened up, creating a backyard stage for local bands to perform.

“It was fantastic. We got a ton of new people to come up and explore the tap room,” said Lee Lewis, the brewery’s general manager. “We’re hoping to put some beer taps out there soon.”

Elk River Brewing Company, like Brookbend Interiors and Spork, also painted their building facades facing Howard Street, breaking up an otherwise drab landscape. For Lewis, it was to create a fresh face for the building.

“We have an entrance to the tap room in the back, and we don’t want it to look run down and have that be the first impression,” he said. “We want a welcoming atmosphere, and that’s why we want it to look as great back there as it does in the front. We’re looking forward to the summer and having a huge presence outside.”

Brookbend Interiors plans to rotate vendors every month. For more information on how to be featured in the Howard Street markets on Second Saturdays, call Brookbend Interiors at 443-406-3610.

Elk River Brewing Company’s biergarten will be open between 2 and 6 p.m. this Sunday.

The Elkton Farmer Market is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

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