A year after floods, Upper Marlboro businesses struggle to stay afloat

September 6, 2012

Upper Marlboro business owner Frank Kline said he won’t be one for much longer.

Kline — owner of Marlboro Blueprint and Office Supplies — said he will shut down his business, most likely within the next month, after struggling to stay afloat for a year after severe flooding destroyed much of his equipment in August 2011.

“I’ve already shut the office supply store side down [in June],” Kline said. “And I’ve been forced to shut down my Waldorf and Lexington Park locations. [After the flooding] we lost our equipment and we’ve just been trying to make ends meet.”

Kline’s is one of fewer than 10 businesses to close in the year since Tropical Storm Lee inundated the Upper Marlboro area. Others have been lucky enough to bounce back, although they now operate under fear of future floods.

Kline said that although the U.S. Small Business Administration offered him low-interest loans, it made no sense for him to take it, as the equipment he lost was under lease. Because the equipment was destroyed, Kline said he could no longer pay for the lease, leading to his equipment in Waldorf and Lexington Park being repossessed and forcing him to close those branches.

“They wanted to give me a loan, but I’m not going to take a loan just to pay for another one,” he said.

Mike Kress, owner of Marlboro Tire and Automotive, across the street from Kline’s business, still has a strip of blue tape on the exterior of his shop, marking the high-water mark during last year’s storm, about five feet above the ground. Although Kress said his company lost some of its more advanced diagnostic equipment, he said his mechanics have been able to replace or repair much of what was damaged.

“Business suffers, like all business, from the general economy,” Kress said. “But we’ve been lucky in that we haven’t lost our customer base, and we’re in an industry that is very much in demand.”

Kress said most businesses that managed to survive the immediate impact of the storm have a strong chance of continued survival.

“The ones that have survived it immediately have pretty good prospects, with the exception of the threat of the next flood or heavy rainfall,” he said. “But the weather is abetted by foolish development decisions over the last 30 years.”

But Kress said he worries that the value of his property has declined, at least unofficially.

“It’s one thing to say you’re in a flood plain,” Kress said. “It’s another to say that your property has actually flooded.”

Kline said that, although he plans to shutter his business, he wants to start a new one in Upper Marlboro soon afterward, despite the problems caused by the flooding.

“I’ll be reincorporating and opening up another business,” Kline said. “I want to keep it small. It’s almost like starting from scratch.”

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