Howard Conservancy Hovering Over Fundraising Goal

The effort to raise $1.8 million for expansion and upgrades at the Howard Conservancy (see The Business Monthly, March 2016) is nearly complete and, with a little luck, the Woodstock-based nonprofit will garner the last $100,000 needed by spring, when the nature center is expected to re-open.

Executive Director Meg Boyd and company are planning a ribbon cutting for May “and will be ready for our annual Wine in the Garden/Beer in the Barn fundraiser on May 25.”

As for the project, interior demolition is complete and the footers for the expansion are going in. “We’re also finalizing our educational exhibits. The children’s area is going to have a ‘fox’s den’ theme,” she said, “and stand-alone displays in phase one of the update will focus on trees and the watershed. In addition, the animal tanks will be integrated into a ‘windows to wildlife’ display, which will feature changeable descriptions for each tank.

Boyd added that the upper level of the building and the trails will remain open during construction.

Shipley Working Toward Trilogy With Next Indie Film

Retired Anne Arundel County schoolteacher Wayne Shipley has already completed two independent Westerns — “One-Eyed Horse” (initially covered in The Business Monthly in December 2007) and “The Day of the Gun” — that were primarily shot on the since-sold family farm in Jessup. Today, he and his crew are preparing to shoot a third film and are already building sets for “Bill Tilghman & The Outlaws.”

The concept originated with Dan Searles, a script and music writer with his group, The Walker Avenue Gang. For the production, many of the interiors (and some exteriors) will be shot in Shipley’s new home base of Carroll County, with most outside shots to be set up about two hours away in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, and a second unit in Oklahoma. Shipley, who lured famed actor Eric Roberts to work on his last film, is “trying to get a sports figure or two,” to work on the new movie, such as former Washington Redskin Fred Stokes. The cast may also include Johnny Crawford, who played Mark McCain in “The Rifleman.”

Shipley is hoping for results similar to those he attained for his first two efforts. “One-Eyed Horse” eventually became available as a mini-series via Amazon Prime and has logged more than 60,000 minutes worldwide; during production of the more recent film, “The Day of the Gun,” the crew also produced “Tales of the Wild West,” a series of short docu-dramas. They are also available on Amazon Prime. The most popular episode in the series is “The Day the Aces Got Trumped,” which is about a baseball game played in 1895; the episode was selected by Major League Baseball for permanent archiving in Cooperstown. To date, “Tales of the Wild West” has logged more than 70,000 minutes on Amazon Prime.

As for “The Day of the Gun,” the movie is in distribution through Monarch Home Entertainment, has sold more than 14,000 units and is also available on Amazon Prime. “Once we reacquire the rights to it,” Shipley said, “we’ll pursue more self-distribution strategies.”

New Ownership at Walt Egers’

A long-time Severn business that is closely tied to its (previous) owner has a new man in charge. Walt Eger’s Service Center, which is located off of Route 170 on Grimm Road, was recently purchased by Davidsonville resident Bruce Spencer, who sealed the deal after Eger founded, ran and owned the car repair shop for 30 years.

Eger’s decision to sell came at an opportune time for Spencer, who spent the bulk of his career working in the defense industry, but had decided the time was now to strike out on his own — which he has done with a business that has a solid local reputation, but operates from a slightly off-the-beaten path location.

“Walt decided to retire to Tennessee and has gone back to his family trade of living off the land,” said Spencer, who is new to the automotive industry. He added that Eger will continue with the business as a consultant.

To grow the business, Spencer plans to continue advertising on television and will market to businesses with small fleets. With 15 bays and four Automotive Service Excellence-certified technicians at work, the Eger team offers a 36-month, 36,000-mile warranty on all repair work, as well as free shuttle service.

Change at Hickory Ridge Village Center

This era of evolution at Columbia’s Village Centers is continuing, this time it’s happening at Hickory Ridge Village Center, with the closing of the Luna Bella Restaurant. That marks the second recent shuttering at the local landmark, after the closing of The Hair Cuttery; in addition, Feet First has announced that it is planning to move back to Wilde Lake Village Center (WLVC).

That news comes as the center’s owner, Kimco Realty Corp., is still working through its redevelopment plan to add an apartment building on-site, as it did at Wilde Lake; but that effort has been met with more questions than applause locally. The typical hold-up has caused existing businesses to operate in limbo while representatives from Kimco try to negotiate with and appease various groups, like the Village Board, the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning and the neighbors.

On another note, the significant redevelopment of Wilde Lake Village Center is almost complete. While it took almost a decade to plan and build, that center serves as a model for the future survival of the village center concept in the older sections of Columbia’s neighborhoods.

Marley Station Sold at Auction

Marley Station, the long-struggling mall located on Route 2 (in Pasadena, if you’re mailing a letter there; it’s actually located at the southern end of Glen Burnie) that in recent years has been marketed as a more accessible alternative to Arundel Mills (see The Business Monthly, December 2014), has been sold at auction by LNR Properties to an as-yet-unnamed buyer.

The mall, which built by Taubman Centers and opened in 1987, is home to three anchor stores — Macys, Sears and J.C. Penney, plus a large Gold’s Gym. That excludes the parcel on its north end that was once the site of Macys, and later Boscov’s, and is owned by Beltsville-based AiNET. The early word is that the mall will continue to operate as it has, with no major changes. A spokesperson for the mall declined to comment for this story, but added that a statement about the transaction will be issued in the near future.