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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


During first year, Wells helped grow events, add new business

(Dec. 10, 2015) A year ago, Ivy Wells was the new kid on the block, stepping into the shoes of the immensely popular Michael Day in a town that had just completed its decades-long transformation from ugly duckling to bona fide swan.
Today, Wells, the economic and community development director of Berlin, insists that, despite all the growth and goodwill the town has enjoyed during the past several years, this is only the beginning.
She sat down for an interview with the Gazette last Thursday in her office inside the visitor’s center, where Wells can often be seen standing at a vertical computer station nearby. Ernest Hemingway, one of her heroes, also typed standing up.
It was just hours before the annual Christmas parade ­–and its hundreds of onlookers – rolled down Main Street. Coincidentally, last year’s parade was among her first tasks in the town.
Wells was previously the economic and community development director in Sykesville, and was handpicked by Day to take over the position. Her first trip to the town, she said, was during the interview process.
“What I knew about Berlin [a year ago] was from what Michael had told me during our years working together,” she said. “But when I got here, I saw how beautiful it was and how friendly everyone was. And it’s even better than I thought it was going to be after a year.”
Once she secured the job, Wells said she was given a “laundry list” of tasks, starting with meeting all the business owners she was charged with helping.
One of her first goals was to increase Berlin’s social media presence. A year later, the town’s visibility is clearly on the rise. Facebook “likes,” for instance, have nearly tripled, from roughly 1,600 to more than 4,500. The Berlin Main Street website ( also received a major overhaul.
Wells said attendance at events has nearly doubled during the last year, and a number of new accolades have come in, ranging from write-ups in national magazines to designations provided by the state government, including the recent Governor’s Service Award for volunteerism.
She also wrote several successful grants and spread awareness of available façade allowances, which a number of businesses used to improve or repair storefronts.
Several notable vacancies have been filled on or near the highly traveled downtown area, including a former doctor’s office, which is now the boutique gallery Art in the Fields, and the long-dormant former Boomer’s, now a restaurant called Crush n Crab.
“When I started, we had a town meeting and I said my number-one goal was to fill that restaurant with something worthwhile for the community,” Wells said. “Now, after just a few months, it’s a successful restaurant and bar. They’re doing well – and they have amazing crab dip.”
Wells said another of her proudest moments was bringing the Maryland with Pride pop-up shop to the struggling Berlin Coffee House, an addition that, although still in its infancy, has already noticeably helped increase traffic.
“When you have an idea and you actually see it come to fruition, it’s extremely rewarding,” she said.
Wells said her biggest challenge at this point is keeping up with the demand for available space on the suddenly crowded Main Street.
“I have a waiting list of businesses that want to come here and I’m trying to work something out where we move some people around,” she said. “I still see things that can be improved and it’s a challenge to find funding for some of the things that I know that we can do better.”
Next year, Wells said, will be the year Berlin expands away from Main Street and starts to transform several former industrial areas into vibrant commercial and tourist attractions.
She said, “2016 will be the year of the excursion train and Berlin Falls, formerly known as the Tyson [Chicken] property.
“My job isn’t just Main Street,” Wells continued. “My challenges are trying to get the properties outside of downtown filled – Johnny Derrickson’s property next to the Pitts Stop, the four corners out by Route 50, and there are some other little ‘pocket parks’ that I’m working on. I want to put businesses there that complement the downtown.”
Of the long-discussed excursion train, Wells said she, Town Administrator Laura Allen and Worcester County Economic Development Director Mary Mears would fly to North Carolina on Dec. 28, and spend three days touring the facilities of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad company.
“I specifically want to see what the economic impact is in the neighboring towns, Bryson City and Ashville,” she said, adding, “It’s on their dime, and we’re really interested to talk to the people there.”
For Wells, everything seems to have come full circle. The second Christmas parade she helped oversee went off flawlessly and the town continues to buzz with excitement and possibility, suggesting that there is no sophomore slump in sight a year after Budget Travel magazine declared the town the coolest of the cool.
Still, she said the biggest accomplishment during her first year on the job was simply measuring up.
“Taking over for Michael was a daunting task because he’s so well-loved here and he did so much,” she said. “It was slightly intimidating at first, but when I got here everyone made me feel so welcome, and after being here for a year, I feel like I haven’t let them down. That’s what I’m most proud of.”