The Final Blow Comes to Big Al’s

While “Big Al” Poore of Big Al’s Market and his family have moved on, the building, empty as it was, was still a reminder of where some of the best seafood and crab cakes was to be found on the Eastern Shore.  That was until the Big Al’s building was formally taken down this week in St. Michaels.

The Spy covered Big Al’s in July of 2012, and we have reprinted below Kathi Ferguson’s short piece on family efforts to keep Big Al’s going and its unique charm. 

Big Al’s Market, the family-owned and operated local seafood establishment on North Talbot Street in St. Michaels, has recently undergone what some might call a facelift. Improvements have been made to the outward appearance but the tradition of quality goods and customer service remains unchanged.

In March of this year “Big Al” Poore and his wife, fondly known as “Miss Rea”, officially retired after over thirty years of owning and operating the business. As with many family shops, its future success lies with the next generation. “Mom and Dad were tired”, says Alan, Jr.  He and his brother Larry, along with Larry’s wife Sharon are now at the helm. Their goal? Continue to provide fresh, local seafood to many satisfied customers.

It all began as a wholesale business when Big Al steamed shrimp and crab at Kastel’s Marina in the late 60s. “Kastel’s was located where St. Michaels Harbour Inn and Marina is now,” explains Alan. “Before that, Dad did all of the steaming out of our house in Bozman.” In 1978 the Poore’s bought what was then a service station and Big Al hung up his sign. The family has been working it ever since.

Steamed crabs remain the specialty at Big Al’s, many of which are caught that day by Alan himself. A commercial waterman, Alan oversees the day’s streaming to ensure quality control through the entire process. He’s also been known to provide those crab-picking rookies with some helpful pointers! Other favorites are Miss Rea’s award-winning crab cakes, fresh oysters, clams, shrimp and crab meat. Rockfish, scallops, tilapia and flounder also top the list.

“We are so proud to be able to carry on the Poore family tradition,” Sharon says. “The challenge has been to maintain the feel of the place while keeping up with the times, but we needed our own niche. Any changes we’ve made have been not only necessary but positive.” One of the most recognizable is the curb appeal.

Most of the credit for that goes to the Poore’s oldest son, Kyle. “While most of us were concentrating on the inside, Kyle directed our attention to the outside and it has really paid off,” Larry Poore explains. Now there are bright umbrellas shading the patio, new picnic tables, a potted herb garden, and the family’s “newest addition” – the Big Al-sized grill and smoker tended to by Pit Master, Montia Rice. Montia has been cooking up BBQ ribs, burgers, salmon, chicken, brisket and more for customers to enjoy. “The BBQ has been a tremendous hit,” says Alan “We also love the fact that the picnic tables and wooden shelves for our herb pots were all built by students in the St. Michaels High School carpentry class,” Sharon adds. “It’s just another way that Big Al’s keeps it local so-to-speak.”

Upon entering the market, the old screen door slaps shut, leading the customer into a warm, open space, welcomed by a friendly greeting from the staff. Josh Poore, Sharon and Larry’s youngest son, was instrumental in redesigning the interior. “Not much was really altered, but Josh thought it would be a good idea to move some things around to better showcase what we have to offer,” Sharon explains. The Deli has also become a big draw, featuring homemade salads along with fresh burgers, subs, sandwiches and wraps. “When a customer walks in and tells me “we’ve heard about your deli,” I just love that,” says Alan.

Unique to the market is that all of Big Al’s seafood and deli items can be packed for travel or shipped for overnight delivery. They now carry a boutique selection of wine; Maryland brewed craft beers, gourmet cheeses, and prepared foods to go. Friday night dinner specials are very popular, and always first to be snatched up. Oh, and no need to worry – they still carry fishing tackle and bait.

This generation of Poores maintains the belief in what constitutes an old time family operated business – to know their customers and take care of them. “If you do that, they come back,” says Alan. “Our world’s gotten away from that and we need to get back to it. We also have some top notch employees who stick by us.” Alan smiles. “Mom and Dad laid the groundwork. Without them, none of this would be possible. Now, we are walking in their shoes.”

Looking ahead, future plans include expanding the “make it and take it” items, wine tastings, and building up the market’s internet business. In the meantime, Big Al’s is attracting locals and visitors alike while successfully continuing the family legacy.

Big Al’s Market, located at 302 N. Talbot, is open Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They can be reached at 410-745-3151.

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Big Al’s Market – A Family Tradition

Big Al’s Market, the family-owned and operated local seafood establishment on North Talbot Street in St. Michaels, has recently undergone what some might call a facelift. Improvements have been made to the outward appearance but the tradition of quality goods and customer service remains unchanged.

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In March of this year “Big Al” Poore and his wife, fondly known as “Miss Rea”, officially retired after over thirty years of owning and operating the business. As with many family shops, its future success lies with the next generation. “Mom and Dad were tired”, says Alan, Jr.  He and his brother Larry, along with Larry’s wife Sharon are now at the helm. Their goal? Continue to provide fresh, local seafood to many satisfied customers.

It all began as a wholesale business when Big Al steamed shrimp and crab at Kastel’s Marina in the late 60s. “Kastel’s was located where St. Michaels Harbour Inn and Marina is now,” explains Alan. “Before that, Dad did all of the steaming out of our house in Bozman.” In 1978 the Poore’s bought what was then a service station and Big Al hung up his sign. The family has been working it ever since.

Steamed crabs remain the specialty at Big Al’s, many of which are caught that day by Alan himself. A commercial waterman, Alan oversees the day’s streaming to ensure quality control through the entire process. He’s also been known to provide those crab-picking rookies with some helpful pointers! Other favorites are Miss Rea’s award-winning crab cakes, fresh oysters, clams, shrimp and crab meat. Rockfish, scallops, tilapia and flounder also top the list.

“We are so proud to be able to carry on the Poore family tradition,” Sharon says. “The challenge has been to maintain the feel of the place while keeping up with the times, but we needed our own niche. Any changes we’ve made have been not only necessary but positive.” One of the most recognizable is the curb appeal.

Most of the credit for that goes to the Poore’s oldest son, Kyle. “While most of us were concentrating on the inside, Kyle directed our attention to the outside and it has really paid off,” Larry Poore explains. Now there are bright umbrellas shading the patio, new picnic tables, a potted herb garden, and the family’s “newest addition” – the Big Al-sized grill and smoker tended to by Pit Master, Montia Rice. Montia has been cooking up BBQ ribs, burgers, salmon, chicken, brisket and more for customers to enjoy. “The BBQ has been a tremendous hit,” says Alan “We also love the fact that the picnic tables and wooden shelves for our herb pots were all built by students in the St. Michaels High School carpentry class,” Sharon adds. “It’s just another way that Big Al’s keeps it local so-to-speak.”

Upon entering the market, the old screen door slaps shut, leading the customer into a warm, open space, welcomed by a friendly greeting from the staff. Josh Poore, Sharon and Larry’s youngest son, was instrumental in redesigning the interior. “Not much was really altered, but Josh thought it would be a good idea to move some things around to better showcase what we have to offer,” Sharon explains. The Deli has also become a big draw, featuring homemade salads along with fresh burgers, subs, sandwiches and wraps. “When a customer walks in and tells me “we’ve heard about your deli,” I just love that,” says Alan.

Unique to the market is that all of Big Al’s seafood and deli items can be packed for travel or shipped for overnight delivery. They now carry a boutique selection of wine; Maryland brewed craft beers, gourmet cheeses, and prepared foods to go. Friday night dinner specials are very popular, and always first to be snatched up. Oh, and no need to worry – they still carry fishing tackle and bait.

This generation of Poores maintains the belief in what constitutes an old time family operated business – to know their customers and take care of them. “If you do that, they come back,” says Alan. “Our world’s gotten away from that and we need to get back to it. We also have some top notch employees who stick by us.” Alan smiles. “Mom and Dad laid the groundwork. Without them, none of this would be possible. Now, we are walking in their shoes.”

Looking ahead, future plans include expanding the “make it and take it” items, wine tastings, and building up the market’s internet business. In the meantime, Big Al’s is attracting locals and visitors alike while successfully continuing the family legacy.

Big Al’s Market, located at 302 N. Talbot, is open Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They can be reached at 410-745-3151.

Professional Art Instruction In Our Own Backyard

The brick building on East Dover Street with the high arched windows trimmed in white may look unassuming, but on any given weekend the inside is filled with easels, artists and enthusiasm. This summer, Easton Studio & School begins its fourth year in business and continues to gain recognition as a highly respected fine art establishment.

Whatever it is that students of art seek out; this school seems to have it.

Local art guild owners Carl Tankersley and artist Nancy Tankersley partnered with nationally recognized artist Louis Escobedo and his wife Yolanda to open Easton Studio & School in July 2009. Offering top quality instruction by nationally known professional artists, the school has significantly increased its enrollment, attracting students and instructors from 33 states and Canada.

The majority of workshops offered are oil painting workshops; be it in studio or en plein air (the act of painting outdoors). However, demand has increased for more specific genres such as portrait painting, color theory, drawing, pastel and watercolor. Most are open to all levels and average from two to four days in length. “We put a lot of thought into our workshop content and instructor selection,” explains Yolanda Escobedo, Operations Director. “Each has his or her individual style of teaching and areas of expertise within their medium.”

“Not only do we have a cadre of artists who are top notch,” says Director of Faculty Louis Escobedo. “But the caliber of instruction is high. Many have been conducting workshops with us since we began and the list keeps growing.” Artists such as Carolyn Anderson, Kim English, and Carol Marine are in such demand that they are scheduled for more than one workshop per year or could have long wait lists. Local artist instructors such as Tim Bell and Sara Linda Poly are also a big draws.

One of the new instructors on the docket this year is the somewhat “edgy” California painter William Wray. Other newcomers include Carol Marine, Texas-based artist known for her “a painting a day” concept; plein air acrylic artist Marcia Burtt; and Colorado artists Kevin Weckbach and Jordan Wolfson.

Students tend to register for workshops taught by artists they have been following or are simply attracted to their style of painting. “When I saw that Kim English was teaching on the East Coast, I was thrilled,” says one student from North Carolina. “I need to loosen up in my work and I knew Kim was the artist who could help me do just that.”

Workshops typically begin with a demonstration by the instructor and perhaps a slide show, interspersed with questions and comments by observing participants. Then it is off to the day’s painting location for plein air workshops or work will begin in the studio from a thoughtfully arranged still life or intently posed model. Whichever the case, the objective is the same – learning to see differently; like a painter, like an artist – concentrating on shapes, the quality of light, shadows, and the repetition of patterns – always comparing and contrasting as you work. The instructor provides as much individual attention to the students as possible during the course of the workshop and constructive critiques are common on the last day.

Portrait painter and gallery owner Betty Huang of Easton would not miss the chance to study with Illinois portrait artist William Schneider. “I make it a priority to free up my schedule to study with Bill when he comes to Easton Studio & School,” Betty says. “After taking his workshop, I am able to approach my work with new insight and renewed confidence.”

The rewards of participating in a workshop are reaped not only by the student but by the instructor. “I find great joy in sharing what I love through my workshops, not to mention the pleasure of doing so on the Eastern Shore,” explains Wisconsin based plein air instructor Ken DeWaard. “At the end of the day, I want my students to learn to loosen up, enjoy the process, and walk away with the tools they need to take their painting to the next level.”

This year, the school began offering weekly one-day open painting clinics with Nancy Tankersley. There is no formal instruction, but it offers the opportunity to paint in a studio environment with other artists who are unable to make the commitment to a workshop.

Indeed the future of Easton Studio & School looks bright and the 2013 schedule is already in the works. What began as a vision of establishing a national art studio and school on the East Coast has become a reality.

Easton Studio & School is located at 307 East Dover Street in Easton. To learn more, call 410-770-4421, or visit www.eastonstudioandschool.com
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Paint Outs Taking Place in Talbot

It is one of those destinations that could easily be passed by with a quick glance in another direction. Told to “keep an eye out for the second gravel drive on your left after the bridge,” I spotted what looked to be a plein air painter setting up her easel under the shade of some flowering trees. I knew that I found the right place.

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This past weekend marked the first in a series of monthly paint outs sponsored by Talbot County Visual Arts Center in Easton where painters of all levels are invited to paint on properties in and around Talbot County. The Anchorage, a majestic waterfront property dating back to the 1800s was this month’s “Paint Talbot” location.

Diane DuBois Mullaly, a local artist and art instructor, is the volunteer organizer of Paint Talbot. She lines up the locations, informs artists of the dates and details and heads up what she refers to as a “friendly” critique at the end of the day. “I am thrilled with the enthusiasm that local and regional plein air painters have expressed for these paint outs,” says Mullaly, “as well as with the willingness of both public places and private estates to have us paint on their property. Our first of the season at The Anchorage was well attended by happy painters!”

Simply put, a paint out is when a group of artists gather to paint in the open air, or “en plein air”, capturing the atmosphere of the moment. “Being able to paint outdoors with fellow artists and friends is such a joy,” explains Mignonne LaChapelle, a painter from Easton. “It’s a challenge like no other; frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. It helps me take my work to another level.”

“Together this season,” Mullaly explains, “we will explore gracious waterfront estates, a working farm, several public landings, Pickering Creek Audubon Center and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. There is a lot to paint!”

As the spring weather looms and the summer months await, more and more plein air painters will dot the landscape, reminding us that the Eastern Shore continues to lure artists to set up their easels, attempting to capture its ever-changing beauty through their painting.

Talbot County Visual Arts Center paint outs take place on the second Saturday of the month from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and will run through November. You can bring your lunch and stay all day, or stop by for however long you like. There is no fee and it is open to all.

Talbot County Visual Arts Center is located in Easton at TalbotTown Shopping Center (entrance on lane to the right of Piazza Italian Market).

Spy Profile: Printmaker Kevin Garber Is A Master

As Master Printer Kevin Garber walked me through his Bozman studio, my naivete about this art form and its versatility quickly became apparent. There is much more to the medium than I ever imagined, and after visiting with this talented artist, I have become a true fan.

Although several of Kevin’s prints hang on the walls, many are leaning against shelves full of art books, lying on table tops, neatly tucked away in levels of deep drawers, or propped up randomly throughout the sunlit room. There are prints in various sizes, colors and techniques. Some are monochromatic, some multi-colored. They range in subject from people to wildlife. None, however, lack in interest or creativity. “I love nature,” says Kevin. “Especially birds. This is my Valdez Crane; you know, from the oil spill.” He points to a large, somewhat dramatic image of the oil-soaked bird. It is extraordinary in its sheer uniqueness. Not all of Kevin’s feathered friends are recreated in such large scale. “I’m working on a series of smaller birds lately and it is great fun,” he says.

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What soon becomes apparent is Kevin’s versatility. Eyes wandering, I am intrigued by some beautiful, somewhat abstract, figure work. They turn out to be watercolor prints; Garber’s medium of choice. “I will work the image on a piece of grained Plexiglas, drop a piece of paper on top, run it through the press, and it transfers the image. The “guide” or drawing is underneath the glass.”

Beneath this artist’s humble persona lies an impressive background. Kevin’s art career began at the York Academy of Art in Pennsylvania (now known as the Pennsylvania School of Art) in 1976. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Art degree at Millersville University and his Masters at the University of Nebraska. It wasn’t long after graduation that Washington University in St. Louis “snatched him up”, hiring Kevin as a Fine Art print instructor, lecturer, and Master Printer of their Collaborative Print Workshop.

For the next ten years, Garber found himself working alongside internationally known visiting artists as well as his students on all methods of printmaking. “The majority of my work at the University was to publish the visiting artists and help them with their presentations.” says Kevin. “The shop would make a small edition of prints, the artists would take home half and the school would retain the other half. Since the program was funded, it allowed us to do some pretty cutting edge stuff.”

As if mastering printmaking were not enough, add sculpture, ornamentals, murals, and other large scale work to this artist’s repertoire. “After opening Fishing Creek Studios in St. Louis back in 1996,” Kevin explains, “I began seeking out site-specific public work. It wasn’t until my affiliation with another sculpture studio that I had the space required to take on large scale 3-D projects.” Working mainly with the architecture and interior design trades, Garber’s commissions began to include sculpture and ornament work for mixed use developments and other public art spaces.

Twelve years later Kevin did what many artists find the need to do – reinvent themselves. He and his wife, writer and photographer Kathy Bosin, moved to the Eastern Shore and began looking for new studio space. Kevin found the perfect spot in Wittman and quickly befriended his new landlord and custom furniture maker, Jim McMartin of McMartin & Beggins. “One day, Jim told me he had some of his late father Philip Martin’s woodcuts from the early 60s he wanted to show me,” Kevin recalls. “He proceeded to pull out a bunch of these things. One by one, I watched him reveal wonderful, stylized black and white woodcut prints of local history – particularly the watermen’s way of life. I was blown away!” Each sugar pine plank had been remarkably crafted, beginning with a line drawing into which McMartin would carve his vision. What ends up being printed is nothing short of amazing.

Now the “official publisher and agent” of the McMartin woodcuts, Kevin is currently working on printing a special edition of them for shows and collectors. He offers to do a demonstration of one and I gladly accept, awaiting the reveal with childlike anticipation. Relying on his upper body weight, Kevin presses down and rubs the wood with a piece of glass block. “Philip McMartin actually used a wooden spoon” he says, smiling. “It’s funny; I find that the smell of the ink lifting off of that wood and on to paper still excites me.” I can certainly understand why.

Kevin’s work can be found in the Kemper Art Museum and Island Press at Washington University as well as in collections throughout the country, including the Whitney Art Museum in New York City. He continues to work on developing new techniques and shares his love of printmaking through lectures and workshops.

The Philip McMartin print edition will be exhibited at the Art Academy Museum in Easton beginning April 5th. They will be custom framed by Jim McMartin and offered for sale.

To learn more about Kevin’s work or to visit his studio, call 314- 497-4244.
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Tilghman Island Talent on Exhibit

The Spy discovered that there is surely more to Tilghman Island than meets the eye…no pun intended. We decided to stop by the Dorchester Center for the Arts on Saturday evening, March 10 to check out the opening reception for a group of Tilghman Island artists. What a nice surprise! More than 150 visitors enjoyed live music and refreshments as they viewed impressive works in oils, watercolor, photography, fiber art, jewelry and other mediums.

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Up to 25 artists participated in the exhibit, each showing how they have been creatively inspired by the island’s magic. There were works of whimsy, portraits, boats, wildlife and waterfowl, landscapes and other scenes that reflect Tilghman’s rich history and culture. The exhibit also featured some of the island’s aspiring young artists from the Tilghman After School Kids (TASK) program. It became clear that Tilghman Island is not only a beautiful tourist destination but home to some remarkable, sometimes hidden, “island talent”.

This event was hosted by the Tilghman Watermen’s Museum.

Historical Society Celebrates Read Across America with Author Rebecca Jones

Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Read Across America Day, and the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 will be celebrated in one fell swoop when the Historical Society of Talbot County hosts children’s author Rebecca C. Jones on Saturday, March 3 at 11am.

Ms. Jones, who’s written 16 books for young readers, will tell the story of the 200-pound flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812. The Biggest (and Best) Flag That Ever Flew, along with her most recent book, Captain John Smith’s Big and Beautiful Bay, will be available for purchase at the Historical Society Museum Store.

 

 

 

FREE

Saturday, March 3, 2012
11 am

Historical Society of Talbot County
25 S. Washington Street
Easton, MD 21601
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Avalon Hosts Favorites The Reminders – Wednesday

If you’re looking for a mid-week respite from work, local favorites The Reminders, performing at the Avalon on Wednesday, February 22, should fit the bill nicely.

Ed Shockley

John

Kevin Short

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The music? Americana, with roots in blues, gospel and country. The band ? Ed Shockley, Kevin Short and John Thompson. Individually they’ve written songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Amy Grant, the London Philharmonic, Earl Scruggs, Tom T Hall; recorded and produced over 30 albums covering all styles of music.

Drummer and songwriter Shockley’s band, Jack of Diamonds, was highly popular in the Mid Atlantic region in the ’70’s and ’80’s. He recorded three cds with his blue – eyed soul band, Vinyl Shockley, who were regulars in the Lewes and Rehoboth area, and Andy’s in Chestertown from 2000 through 2006.

The Reminders

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
7 pm
Tickets $20

Avalon Theatre
40 E Dover St
Easton, MD 21601
410-822-7299
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Custom-made Men’s Shirts Comes to Town

Looking for the perfect Valentine for your favorite man ? Something  sophisticated, smooth, and sexy, perhaps ?  Introducing the latest addition to Mimi’s Closet; the J. Hilburn line of custom men’s clothing: shirts, suits, trousers, sportcoats, as well as casual ready to wear & accessories.  Proprietor Marjorie Adams is now a certified style adviser, trained in measuring your man for the perfect fit, be it custom tailored shirt, sportcoat or suit.

The Italian fabric shirts  come in 4 body styles, your choice of solid, stripes, checks, Liberty of London prints, 14 collar options… would you like a single button cuff, or will you be using cufflinks ? And perhaps personalize with a contrasting color on the collar or cuff, maybe both ?   Each shirt is monogrammed  inside the collar, regardless of whether you opt for it on the cuff (or pocket). As Adams says, it’s, “an Experience.” Custom shirt prices range from $89 to $159, and are ready within three to four weeks. The suits, which are made in Portugal, are completed in four to six weeks.

J. Hilburn, whose motto is “Luxury for Less,” is based in Dallas, but  has no retail store . It cuts out the cost of the middle man, instead recruiting style advisers who measure and offer style advice.

The company carries a full line of ready to wear clothing as well, including :  polo shirts ($69), luxury pima tees ($39),  neckwear ($89), and cufflinks ($99 and up), and belts (custom $125, ready to wear $75). These items are generally ready in one week. Best to stop in at Mimi’s Closet in either location to order and for more information, or click here to view the whole line.

This Spy kept caressing the fabric swatches and wondering when they are going to carry custom women’s shirts.

J. Hilburn

Gift Certificates Available
Call 410 739 5402 to make a  private appointment.

Mimi’s Closet

306 Cannon Street
Chestertown, MD 21620
Tues-Sat, 11am to 5pm
Tel: 443-282-0225

 

101 E. Dover St., Easton, MD 21601
Mon-Sat  10am to 5pm
Tel: 410-820-7021

 
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Organizations Launch Campaign to Label Genetically Modified Foods

Nearly 450 groups from various segments of society are partnering in a campaign  called Just Label It ! to petition the FDA to label genetically modified foods. According to the Just Label It ! website, the FDA determined that genetically engineered foods were “substantially equivalent” to conventionally produced foods, so there was no material difference – and no labeling was required.

Read the article in E- The Enivronmental Magazine here