CAMBRIDGE — Downtown Cambridge honored the late Carol Levy Ruark, known by many in Cambridge as a Main Street original, with the Marjorie A. Lednum Award.
The organization presented the award during its annual Spring Fling event Saturday, April 6. Ruark died last August after a battle with cancer, but is still mourned by many in the community.
Ruark’s business, A Few of My Favorite Things and later The Wine Bar, formerly on the 400-block of Race St., is noted as one of the first business to open up shop in downtown Cambridge after widespread unemployment due to Phillips Packing Company shut down.
Ruark’s shop sold wines, cheeses and chocolate accompaniments.
Ruark first began visiting Cambridge from her native Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s, when she fell in love with the town. In a 2013 interview, Ruark said she had always enjoyed visiting.
“She was definitely a business pioneer downtown, and a very fierce advocate for revitalization efforts and was eventually able to retire and sell the business,” said Downtown Cambridge Executive Director Katie Clendaniel. “So we definitely miss her and want to be able to recognize her as someone who made a substantial investment and made downtown better through her efforts.”
Clendaniel said Ruark’s husband, Joe, accepted the award on her behalf and had worked closely with Downtown Cambridge after Ruark’s passing. Clendaniel said she believes he has a deep commitment to downtown.
“Being somebody who has probably seen a lot of change in the community, I think it takes a really deep commitment and vision for a lot of these folks to invest here,” she said.
Brandon Hesson, associate director of economic and community development for the town of Cambridge and former Downtown Cambridge executive director, said Ruark had always been a trusted opinion to him.
He said the two had great, unwinding conversations about their weeks most Fridays.
“I lost both my parents to cancer, and Carol reminded me a lot of my mom because she was colorful and creative, but also because the two of them had this very open relationship with, and dialogue about, cancer and its treatment,” he said.
Hesson said throughout the evolution of Cambridge’s main street, there was turnover, and with a constantly shifting community; however, Ruark had always been a needed source of information.
“Small businesses pivot for a number of reasons,” he said. “Pivots are smaller incremental changes to a business to address issues or keep them fresh.
“Carol was the absolute best at the pivot, and transitioned in so many ways to improve her business,” he said. “She was such a good role model for a new small business downtown.”
Ruark also would receive frequent visits from Comptroller Peter Franchot when promoting Shop Maryland initiative.
Franchot credited Ruark for helping to lay a strong business foundation for the thriving downtown Cambridge people visit today.
According to Ruark’s obituary, she was known as an advocate for the growth of Cambridge Main Street, along with touching many lives in agreeable ways. She demonstrated leadership and guided countless others through the small business start up process, the obituary states.
“I fell in love with Cambridge,” Ruark said in a 2013 interview. “I thought it was the most beautiful little town I had ever seen. I knew that someday I wanted to get here. I didn’t know how or why, but I wanted to get here.”
Levy said her business, along with the Joie de Vivre Gallery, Canvasback Restaurant and Craig’s Drug Store were some of the first businesses to take hold in the downtown.
“Cambridge, when I got here, was basically a very quiet little town with not much to offer,” Ruark said in a 2013 interview. “Slowly, we have worked hard to bring more in . The city’s economic department has help all of us tremendously. People have come and found it’s a beautiful spot with lots of opportunity.”