ELLICOTT CITY, Md. - A restaurant owner is helping ease the financial strain for his employees who remain out of work after historic flooding shut down Main Street in Ellicott City. Over two weeks later, businesses and restaurants along the popular strip remain closed.
Some residents said it might take an entire year to rebuild Main Street. Since businesses are still closed, it also means many of the people who work in this area have to find new jobs.
The owner of Phoenix Emporium, a bar and restaurant destroyed on Main Street, turned to crowdfunding to help his workers with the transition.
“It took a little while to sink in that the restaurant where I work pretty much got wiped off the side of that hill and I had to find something else, so just to be able to receive this money from the GoFundMe, it has made that transition a little bit easier,” said bartender Chuck Kindred.
Kindred is one of the lucky ones as he was able to find another job bartending after the flood forced Phoenix Emporium to shut down. Kindred worked there for seven years. Even so, the new job didn't come with a bonus and impending bills were mounting.
“I pretty much got the amount of money I needed to cover my budget for the month,” he said. “My car payment, my rent, car insurance, health insurance – all that is going to be taken care of and I don't have to worry about that now. So it's great.”
Kindred’s boss at the Phoenix Emporium, Mark Hemmis, started a GoFundMe page for his employees two days after the catastrophic flooding. So far, it has raised over $28,000.
“We put out this GoFundMe page and told people that we were doing this for the benefit of our employees and I'm surprised at the shock that we're actually doing that,” said Hemmis.
Hemmis bought the restaurant from its original owner 15 years ago. He has spent the last two weeks cleaning up the mess left behind and preserving history and memories.
“This is what we're supposed to do,” he said. “I asked people for money to help my employees and they gave it to me and we gave it to our employees, and I'm extraordinarily grateful for everybody who donated.”
“I can't imagine the stress he is going through with his whole business just being wiped away, and the first thing he thought about was us,” said Kindred.
Hemmis was able to give each employee at least $1,000. In some cases, even more. He is hoping the workers will return when the restaurant reopens. Until then, Hemmis said he will use the donations to pay bills for his employees who remain out of work.