YEAR IN REVIEW — BUSINESS
BERLIN/OCEAN PINES—The Lower Eastern Shore was bursting with fresh new business ideas and enthusiasm this year. Even several established businesses made additions or refurbishments. For example, Buck’s Place at the intersection of Routes 611 and 376 and Kathern Slaughter’s O.C. Pet Spa, in West Ocean City, added architectural updates to give their locations a fresh new look or expansion of services.
Alas, we unfortunately had a few closings, including the Whimsical Cottage in Berlin, where owners Kelly and Jeannie Hastings pulled off one of the classiest farewells of the 60-seat theater we’ve seen in a while. They hosted the Winston’s, known for their 1969 hit song “Color Him Father” as their last performance, which ended with a standing ovation for the Hastings. The couple even returned to extend their best wishes to the new leasees of the retail space on that business’s opening day.
The area’s business startups ran the gamut from traditional to never-tried-before in 2012.
January: Contrary to the conventional wisdom, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” Armando Saldaña got one, when he opened a new location for his popular Plaza Tapatia Restaurants. Despite being the 11th site for the small chain of Mexican-themed eateries, Saldaña said he considered the new venue, in Ocean Pines’ Pennington Commons Shopping Center on Racetrack Road near the South Gate, “No. 1” and “My Baby,” because it symbolized the restaurant he had sought to establish when he first started his company.
Meanwhile, 36-year-old Berlin native Tyler Betz added his shingle to Main Street’s business district in January by opening a Visiting Angels, Living Assistance Services franchise. The national company describes itself as a national, private duty network of home care agencies and Betz said he wanted to cater to Baby Boomers who were looking for ways to keep their elderly loved ones in their own homes, by providing light housekeeping, meal preparation and companion care.
February: Bucking the recent trend of going from a brick-and-mortar store to an online shopping boutique, Gina March opened her BomShell Boutique at 10441 Racetrack Road in response to requests from clients from her two Facebook consignment shops, a consignment line of cute kid’s clothes, and a girly-girl fashion line that featured home-based trunk shows for the ladies. When 60 clients showed up for a holiday sale and party in 2012, she said, “We basically knew that we had outgrown the dining room.”
March: A new seafood shop bobbed to the surface in the mini shopping plaza at 12523 Ocean Gateway earlier this year. Despite an initial delay for inspections and permits, Captain Ernie’s Seafood Outlet was up and running in time for the start of the summer beach tourist season. Victoria Volpe and her partner “Captain Ernie” were part of a revamping of the shopping plaza owned by Michael Dent, who also added a Verizon store and a beer, wine and lottery store.
Dorian Purnell, revamped Flower Street mainstay “Sonny’s Barbershop” as “D-stinct D-signs Barbershop,” after the Berlin Board of Appeals and Town Council authorized a zoning permit that will allow an expansion of the facility. Purnell, who had worked at the shop since prior owner Sonny Derrickson became too ill to continue serving his clientele, and is carrying on the tradition of the familiar neighborhood meeting spot.
April: Eastern Shore native Austin Widdowson, brought a dose of urban hipness and edge to Berlin’s Victorian downtown with the launch of multimedia production company Refresh Media. Executive producer and CEO Widdowson essentially rebranded his Baltimore-based Rapid Eye Media production company in a Soho-loft styled studio at 2 South Main Street. He creates film-oriented digital commercials, videos and television segments, using local venues and resources in many of the projects.
May: First time pub owners Charles Blake, Chris Ward and Vincent Wood, freshened up the former Steer Inn site at 10514 H Racetrack Road and turned it into a boldly painted sports bar for guys and gals. With the billiards and electronic sports games, the pub looks like a comfortable Friday night hangout spot. The venture attracted 200 customers in its maiden run.
Once the town of Berlin expanded its EDU limits, John Derrickson, wasted no time bringing fresh new businesses to his property on the site of the former Sherwood Ford building at 9040 Worcester Highway that had been sitting vacant next to his John’s Autobody Repair and Towing Service. He opened his modern, upscale Sunshine Laundry, at the facility on U.S. Route 113 in February, followed a few months later by a Pitt Stop beer and wine store that has its own balcony for special events, wine tastings and receptions.
Stephanie L. Fowler, a Salisbury native and the author of “Crossings,” a collection of Eastern Shore-centrist nonfiction short stories, opened independent publishing house Saltwater Media. Using a marvel of on-demand book publishing technology she named “Amelia,” Fowler touted that she could take a manuscriptfrom electronic document to soft-bound volume in five minutes. She offers also editing, marketing and other services for self-publishers. The store front at 26 Broad St., #104, in Berlin also serves as a boutique for writing inspired gifts and accessories, and an elegant spot for book signings, exhibits and receptions.
Living up to her motto “Home Cooking for the Soul,” Mary Johnson opened her Johnson Family Restaurant, a clean, friendly eatery, in the Cypress Center, at the Selbyville, Del., border on U.S. Route 113. The menu features standard home-cooked chicken and beef dishes for anyone missing “mom’s home cooking”—provided that mom could cook. Also on the menu are breakfast specials and a list of entrees ranging from amazing seafood dishes—you must try the grouper platters (either fried or broiled) or the pure-meat-no-filler crab cakes, and daily or weekly specials.
Entrepreneur Patrick Whaley returned to his Eastern Shore roots from California and opened Whaley Brother’s Appliances in Ocean Pines Plaza at 11234 Five-L Drive in Ocean Pines Plaza just off Cathell Road, where he offers new, used and refurbished appliances. Whaley’s primary business is conducted on the Internet and he leased the storefront space with the initial intention of using it mostly as a repair shop and storage unit, walk-in retail business took an unexpected uptick.
June: Laura Stearman, a transplanted registered nurse from Gaithersburg opened Harmony Wellness Spa at 14 Broad Street aimed at trying to heal weary spirits with a range of services from manicures and pedicures to reflexology, Reiki and craniosacral therapy. The unisex salon next to The Globe offers, “a half-hour from the madness,” to ease away everyday stresses and strains, with everything from a “power nail gel” quickie to an all-day pamper party for a bride-to-be and her bridesmaids.
Usually peer pressure and drinking has a negative connotation, but in the case locally-made, cocktail creator and local bartender Greg David began marketing his creation “George’s Bloody Mary Mix” after being pressured to do so by friends and partners Alex and Theda Bakis. The Bakis sisters ramped up the pressure to prod David forward after his bloody Mary mix won the Best Bloody Mary Mix Award at Secrets in Ocean City a month after David arrived in the area in 2006 to help his family open the Globe Theatre.
July: Baltimore transplant, Michele Cymek woke up with a “eureka” moment for an online boutique featuring unique clothes for children “and mommies too!” one morning at 2 a.m. Cymek’s “Twinkle Frog” boutique with its adorable mascot Finklestein the Frog, also known as “Little Fink,”’ sells “What you think of as typical fairytale princess attire,” in the form of well made, unique, adorable items for little girls. For mommies, the designs are fun and feminine, just the right balance of on-trend eye candy, appropriate for both a play date with the kids and a date night with daddy.
August: Father and daughter Daniel Williams and Joanne Richardson reopened the traditional Three Cedars Country Store country general store and a small antiques shop, which Williams had originally built in 2004. The format is flea market-style, with lots of items for bargain hunters to sort through. The stores are nestled on a woody lot at 10436 Georgetown Road, which is located on the opposite side of Friendship Road from Cathell Road, about one mile from Route 50. Bright red and white wooden “yard sale” point the way to the store, which is open on Saturdays during the Christmas season from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., along with an online store on Facebook at “Three-Cedars-Country-Store.”
September: Independent breast cancer support organization Women Supporting Women closed its Worcester County office on Old Ocean City Boulevard and reopened at 12216 Ocean Gateway. The organization provides surgeons with information kits and products for their patients who are battling cancer, and provides mastectomy and chemotherapy products and information pamphlets directly to breast cancer patients. Hours after the Bayside Gazette reported the organization needed $900 to paint the logos on signage for the door, building and roadside pylon, Mary Henderson, the new office’s full-time coordinator, said a married couple of generous good Samaritans walked in with a check to pay for the complete project.
The Gazebo nursery was purchased by former employee Nancie Corbett and along with her husband Donnie Waldhelm reopened as Bluebird Farms. The farm at 11207 Racetrack Rd. near Ocean Pines’ North Gate also offers a large selection of fresh herbs—both culinary and medicinal—and straight-from-the-field onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other produce. Corbett and Waldhelm are cultivating wildflowers and their own fresh herbs and plan to feature organic produce in the future.
Hunter and Devon Bostick, who grew up on the water, opened their first venture, Sea-La-Vie, at 11 Artisans Way near North Main Street in Berlin. Inside, the products run the gamut from sea-themed cook’s tools, potpourri and bath products, jewelry, notecards, children’s gifts, and pet toys and collars. The sisters had been talking about opening a store for about five years, and came together when one awoke the other with the idea in the middle of the night.
Eric J. Belardo, one of five local entrepreneurs featured in Maryland’s “Pitch Across America 2.0” bus campaign this past summer, opened his Digital Youth Experience extra curriculum technology programs in part to help stem the flow of the “brain drain” from the Eastern Shore. The company is located at 9925 Stephen Decatur Highway, in the Teal Marsh Center. There he teaches students from ages 10-99 years old information technology and provides software development opportunities to what he hopes will be the area’s emerging IT workforce.
November: Don Klein, of Newark, expanded his 10-year-old Shoreline Auto Sales dealership by opening a location across Route 50 from Stephen Decatur High School at 10621 Ocean Gateway. Klein, a former insurance company auto appraiser from New Jersey, does much of the purchasing, detailing, and repair work himself. The dealership’s inventory features Jeeps, muscle cars, imports and pick-up trucks, most of which cost less than $10,000. Klein said his goal was to provide affordable, reliable transportation first time buyers, young drivers and purchasers on tight budgets who were looking for dependable commuter cars.
Sisters-in-law, Nancy and Susan Taylor had been raising alpacas in Berlin for two years and opened Ocean Breeze Alpacas when they discovered they needed an outlet for all the yarn they were producing. The loft above a barn was remodeled into a store and meeting spot for fiber-philes, who enjoyed coming over to chat and knit. The farm is located northwest of the Town of Berlin on the westbound span of Route 50, just north of the Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack. Business hours are on weekends leading up to Christmas, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
December: Kate Bathon made one of her husband’s business ideas a reality by opening the Enchanted Beauty Salon & Spa in a home-like setting at 11220 Beauchamp Rd., across the road from St. John Neumann’s Catholic Church. Certified stylist Dana Moreau, brings 27 years of hair styling experience with her to the salon, which includes a hardwood floored and paneled wall room overlooking a wraparound back deck and plenty of natural light.