Hurricane Sandy spares businesses, rips through distillery

COCKEYSVILLE, Md. - There were some that described it as an eyesore. Others, call it a piece of history. Where they met in the middle – the opportunity provided to look inside after winds from Hurricane Sandy cracked it like an egg.

"Rye Brook." At least 50 years of wind and rain have taken the color out of what's left of the name on the side of the old whiskey distillery.

You have to squint your eyes, pull your ear and turn your head slightly to the left just to read the large letters on the side of the large building at the intersection of York Road and Beaver Run Lane.

Damage done by Hurricane Sandy during the dark of night, while much more obvious than the simple fading of letters, made Mother Nature's intent obvious – she has a grudge against the building and everything close to it.

The wall she crumbled was a statement.  

PHOTOS | Sandy rips through old whiskey distillery

The parking lot across the street from the old distillery was busy Tuesday. Old-timers and patrons of the businesses that sit in the shadow of the multi-level brick structure all wanted a look inside the hole large enough to fit a 787 Dreamliner. The common emotions – wonder and thanks.

It wasn't the first time a wall of the old distillery had crumbled. The old-timers there said when Hurricane Agnes hit the area in 1972, a hole was knocked in the south wall and whiskey barrels floated into the stream that cups the building.

"People were pulling whiskey barrels out of the Lock Raven reservoir," a man refusing to identify himself said. "I'm not sure what I know about the place is 100 percent the truth."

Regardless, the building is an eyesore to many that stopped to get a glimpse inside.  

Ozzie Mehdizadeh owns the Side Street Café. He said the damage to the building was both a blessing and a curse. He hopes all the attention helps identify what he says is the real issue in the area – flooding.

Mehdizadeh has lost three months of business in the last two years due to flooding.  Water, he says, is often knee deep after a storm. He's thankful he has yet to see that with Sandy.

"I don't know. It was luck, you know," Mehdizadeh said as he glanced over at sandbags and boards that covered his windows.

"Apparently, the wall is gonna hurt us, because it is closing two-thirds of our parking lot. That's going to hurt us a lot. It's taking our parking spaces away."

How bad will it hurt? Mehdizadeh said business is good enough to survive. A day lost could easily mean something different.

Luckily, he has loyal customers. Many saw the damage to the building that dwarfs his livelihood and stopped by to check on him. They couldn't believe his business and others in the area were basically untouched by Sandy.

"I had people calling me at eight o'clock this morning," he said.

Mehdizadeh said it really is a miracle his business was untouched. The way the stream cups the cluster of businesses, they get flooding on all sides. The smallest storms are a concern.

"How much can I take? I have no idea. My hair is turning gray," he said. "This is an ongoing situation. God, help us."

Mehdizadeh said he and other business owners in the area have heard mumblings Baltimore County may try to improve drainage or even relocate the businesses in the area.

"I hope it's true," he said.

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