Making it Work on the Shore: Ace Moritz and Eastern Shore Brewing

The craft beer business was in its infancy when Adrian (Ace) Moritz started to work in the industry during the early 1990s in one of Vermont’s earliest local breweries, the Long Trail Brewing Company. It was hard to tell then that the local brew industry would become the booming business it has become, but it started a lifetime passion for Ace.

After leaving Long Trail, and deciding to leave a lucrative private sector career in New York, Ace and his wife decided to risk everything when they started Eastern Shore Brewing Company in St. Michaels in 2009 to follow his passion.

And over the course of the last nine years, Ace has learned a great deal about moving from the love of a home brewery to the complications and challenges that come with a full retail and wholesale operation. Those lessons have continuously change the business model as he continues to find the sweet spot between maintaining a sustainable business and remain competitive as craft beer takes over some of the smallest towns on the Eastern Shore.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Eastern Shore Brewing please go here.

Stagg appointed as new Easton Utilities Commissioner

Mayor Robert C. Willey swore in William B. Stagg as a new commissioner of the Easton Utilities Commission on May 1, 2017 for a six-year term. Mr. Stagg has 35 years of experience in the mid-Atlantic region providing private and public sector master planning, site planning and landscape architectural design services. He is currently a principal with Lane Engineering, LLC directing much of the firms land development planning, design and engineering efforts.

As a member of the Easton Utilities Commission, Mr. Stagg is charged with governance responsibilities for Easton Utilities. He succeeds David J. North who retired in April after serving for 12 years, including two years as Chairman of the Commission. “Bill’s experience, knowledge and commitment to environmental preservation will be an ideal complement to our strong commission,” said Hugh E. Grunden, President and CEO of Easton Utilities.

Mr. Stagg resides in Easton and is active in the community. He was the past President of the Rotary Club and Habitat for Humanity Choptank.

Easton Utilities is a community-owned, not-for-profit utility and telecommunications company operating the Electric, Natural Gas, Water, Wastewater, Cable Television, and Internet services for the Town of Easton and portions of the surrounding area. Visit www.eastonutilities.com for more information.

David North completes Final Year as a Commissioner for Easton Utilities

David J. North has completed his twelfth and final year as a Commissioner for Easton Utilities. Since 2005, Mr. North has been providing strategic direction and oversight for both operations and management. In his last two years, he served as Chairman of the Commission. “I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Easton Utilities grow and succeed amidst the ever-changing economy and landscape in our community,” said North. “Above all, I cherished the opportunity to work with such an extraordinary organization that simply shines with pride and professionalism from top to bottom in all departments.”

David North and Hugh E. Grunden

Mr. North helped position Easton Utilities for a strong future by recognizing the importance of infrastructure investment and exceptional customer service. “As a lifelong resident of Talbot County, David’s sincere commitment to the success of our organization and this community has been unwavering,” stated Hugh E. Grunden, President and CEO of Easton Utilities. “Both Easton Utilities and the Town of Easton thank him for his significant contributions.”
Easton Utilities is a community-owned, not-for-profit utility and telecommunications company operating the Electric, Natural Gas, Water, Wastewater, Cable Television, and Internet services for the Town of Easton and portions of the surrounding area. Visit www.eastonutilities.com for more information.

Oxford’s Scottish Highland Creamery to Change Ownership

Pictured from left are Victor and Susan Barlow, G.L. Fronk, Gordon Fronk and Michael Fronk.

After twelve years of owning and operating The Scottish Highland Creamery, Susan and Victor Barlow are pleased to share that the business will be passed on and sold to the Fronk Family at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The Barlows and the Fronks are fully committed to working together to ensure a smooth transition over the summer and beyond so customers will continue to enjoy the same delicious ice cream they have come to expect for years to come.

“It’s been a wonderful twelve years building this business, serving our community and being welcomed into the traditions and celebrations of our customers,” said the Barlows. “However, after 35 years of making ice cream, Victor has decided to ‘pass the scoop on’ as it was to him. We cannot put into words how much we appreciate the Town of Oxford for embracing us from the start and giving us the opportunity to do what we love. The familiar faces you have come to know at the window will not change, as our entire staff will be staying with the business.”

“The Scottish Highland Creamery will be our family business,” said GL and Michael Fronk, who will be running the day-to-day operations. “Customers can rest assured that we share the Barlows’ commitment to family, hard work and the Town of Oxford. We are honored that Victor has chosen us to carry on his recipes and techniques so that his ice cream will continue to be enjoyed by current and future generations. We are excited to lead the business into its next chapter.”

The Fronks are familiar faces around The Scottish Highland Creamery and have deep roots in Oxford and Talbot County. Gordon and Sally Fronk have been pillars of our community for many years. Their sons, GL and Michael, who will be managing the day-to-day operations of the business, both have a strong background in the Food & Beverage industry. GL and his wife, Laura, a teacher at Saints Peter and Paul, live in Trappe with their two children. Michael is currently in the process of moving back to Talbot County with his wife, Allison, a flight attendant, and two daughters.

“While bittersweet, we are excited about our future and that of The Scottish Highland Creamery,” said the Barlows. “Now that we have secured the legacy of the business we’ve built, we are looking forward to spending time with family and figuring out what’s next. The fond memories from the years of establishing and growing our business and the thousands of people we’ve met and served along the way will remain with us always. We hope our patrons will continue to show The Scottish Highland Creamery and the Fronks the same loyalty and love you have bestowed on us for the past twelve years.”

PRS Guitars’ Founder Receives Honorary Doctorate from Washington College

Paul Reed Smith, founder and Managing General Partner of PRS Guitars, has received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Maryland’s Washington College. The degree, which was in recognition of Paul’s significant achievements as an innovative and creative thinker, was presented to Smith by Washington College President Sheila Bair during a public ceremony on Thursday, April 13.

Paul was recognized for both PRS Guitars, his successful business that has been designing and manufacturing electric guitars and basses, acoustic guitars, and amplifiers for some of the world’s most prestigious musicians for more than 30 years, and also his new cutting-edge company: Digital Harmonic, LLC, which marries art and science with developed image and waveform technology.
“Paul is a remarkable example of entrepreneurial spirit; a kid builds a guitar in high school woodshop and ends up as Managing Partner and Founder of the third largest guitar manufacturer in the US. Many would tell you that the company makes the best electric guitars that have ever been made,” said George Spilich, a professor of psychology and director of the Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning at Washington College who treasures his own PRS guitar. “Now Paul is taking his expertise in signal processing and pivoting that knowledge into the creation of a signal processing company that has the promise of greatly improving medical imaging. If all that does not merit recognition in the business world, I don’t know what does.”

“I am very appreciative to be recognized by the Department of Business Management at Washington College,” said Paul Reed Smith. “I hope it serves as inspiration to the students, that regardless of where you start, things are possible with determination, a plan and great work ethics.”

Paul joins a prestigious circle of honorary degree recipients that includes U.S. Presidents (including George Washington) and nationally renowned scientists, writers, artists, historians, and statesmen. Paul has visited Washington College on several occasions, offering master classes in music, and performing with the Paul Reed Smith Band.

Aside from Smith’s professional success, he is also dedicated to giving back to the community through PRS Guitars’ fundraising efforts for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Living with Cancer program and his mentorship program, which he personally has delivered at dozens of area secondary schools and colleges including Washington College. The mentorship program, which is largely funded by Smith himself, focuses on achieving goals and dreams through positive work ethics and responsibility. Paul is convinced that if he can reach even one student at each program that it is worth his time and effort.

Maryland 3.0: Screaming and Shaking at Justine’s with Tyler Heim

There is something rather extraordinary about a small town ice cream parlor. It inevitably strikes a nerve of memory and nostalgia for many Americans as they recall their families special trips in the early evening of summer to the local stand on Main Street.

And one of those very special places is Justine’s Ice Cream Parlour in St. Michaels.

Known for having the longest lines in town during the summer months, including those eager to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Justine’s over the last 30 years has become on those iconic snapshots of life on the Eastern Shore.

But behind the counter is another great American story of young entrepreneurs taking the concept of the summer ice cream place to an entirely different level. And that was the motivation behind the Spy’s recent interview with ice cream maker Tyler Heim,who, along with his brother, Jared, has been managing Justine’s for the store’s owner (and aunt) Kathleen Lash over the last few years.

When we talked to Tyler last week in the store last week, Tyler gave us an excellent overview of the world of local ice cream, the art of milkshake making, and plans to scale up the Justine brand in the years ahead.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information on Justine’s please go here. Maryland 3.0 is an ongoing Spy series on entrepreneurship on the Mid-Shore. 

Maryland 3.0: Sprouts Starts to Take Over the Eastern Shore

Just so you know….perhaps one of the most significant “foodie” experiments in the country is taking place on the Mid-Shore.

A young couple, primarily trained in nutritional science and fitness, decide to escape the rat race of the Western Shore and relocate to Trappe to start a food delivery business dedicated to high quality prepared meals with locally sourced produce and meat.

The concept was simple. Rather than send clients the raw materials to make a nutritious meal (think Blue Apron), Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll would take it to the next level and actually cook the meals for its customers.

Sprout would do all the work. Whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack, Ryan and Emily identify local farmers within a 200-mile range that produce some of the most exquisite examples of fruit, vegetables, chicken, pork, or beef in the region to produce meals that could be left at your doorstep twice a week.

Fast-forward one year later Sprouts has become an increasingly important provider on the entire Eastern Shore as well is in Annapolis. With Ryan’s mother in Chestertown, the couple continues to seek a local partner to help as a delivery station, which they call a “Sproutlet,” but they hope to cover the entire Mid-Shore within the next two years.

The Spy spent some quality time with Ryan in his portable kitchen in Trappe to discuss the couple’s courage and conviction it took to start a business of this kind and their aspirations over the next few years.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Sprouts please go here

Commerce: Annapolis Looks at Taxing Online Sellers

Maryland retailers are again pushing for the state to collect sales taxes from online merchants not based in Maryland, helping them and potentially raising hundreds of millions for the state.

Brick and mortar stores are struggling to compete with online sellers in other states, retail business interests testified in Annapolis on Wednesday in support of the Main Street Fairness Act of 2017.

“When there exists a significant savings from online purchasing, the attraction of the cost savings often outweigh the shopping experience,” Barbara Nicklas, senior general manager for the Mall in Columbia told the House Ways and Means Committee.

She said collecting the online sales tax would close the “cost disparity” between online sellers and brick and mortar stores.

Steve Sachs, vice president of real estate with Willis Towers Watson-North America, said Maryland retailers should not be forced to compete at a “tax disadvantage” with online sellers. “You’re supposed to be paying state tax on sales.”

He said the absence of legislation to fix the problem has created a penalty to Maryland retailers.

“Common sense tells me that we should be protecting our own businesses in Maryland who employ our workers [and provide tax revenue] to the state of Maryland and our local jurisdictions.”

In written testimony, he said the retail industry in Maryland employs 238,000 workers and paid $4 billion in sales taxes in 2015.

Physical presence required

Under current law only online sellers with a physical presence in Maryland are required to collect the 6% sales tax.

In 2014, Amazon opened a warehouse in Baltimore and started collecting the 6% sales taxes on purchases from Maryland residents. The Comptroller’s Office estimated that sales tax receipts from Amazon would reach $169 million by 2017.

The bill, HB1213, would require online (remote) sellers without a physical presence in Maryland to collect the state’s 6% sales tax from Maryland consumers who make purchases online, but only when a remotes seller’s quarterly transactions are more than 200 or exceed $10,000 in sales.

A study by the Comptroller’s Office in 2011 indicated that $287 million in sales taxes from online sales would go uncollected by 2017. The Department of Legislative Services later updated the estimated loss to closer to $320 million.

P.J. Hogan testifying for NetChoice, a national trade association that promotes e-commerce, said Maryland might have difficulty collecting the tax from remote sellers based on lawsuits in other states where online retailers have relied on a 25-year-old Supreme Court ruling to avoid collecting retail sales taxes.

Supreme Court decision

A 1992 Supreme Court decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota affirmed that out-of-state retailers were only required to collect a sales tax from consumers in states where they had a physical presence, like a distribution center or sales office, according to the legislative analysis.

Hogan said a similar law to the proposed bill passed in South Dakota a year ago and was recently struck down on Monday in the South Dakota Supreme Court as unconstitutional based on the Quill decision.

He said the Maryland Attorney General has opined that the law would wind up in litigation unless the Quill decision is overturned or Congress passes legislation allowing for the collection of a sales tax without the requirement of a physical presence in the state where a sale originates.

by Dan Menefee

Trump China Trade Policies could Hurt Maryland, Analysts say

If new Trump administration policies trigger a trade war with China, the port of Baltimore and Maryland could see revenue and job losses, according to analysts.

“Obviously China is a key trading partner. We do a lot of business with China and a lot of other Asian countries,” Richard Scher, director of communications for the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), told Capital News Service.

China ranked as the fifth-highest trading partner in exports and third in imports in 2015, according to the Port of Baltimore’s most recent foreign commerce statistical report. The port oversaw approximately $4 billion worth of materials that were exchanged between the U.S. and China that year.

The economic relationship between the U.S. and China has been trying at times, and yet the two nations remain each other’s largest trading partners.

However, the U.S.’s trade deficit with China reached $367 billion in 2015, according to a report last month from Robert E. Scott, senior economist and director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.

“Put another way, since China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, the U.S. trade deficit with China has increased annually by $20.3 billion, or 11.2 percent, on average,” Scott wrote.

The deficit and President Donald Trump’s unfavorable stances towards China’s trading practices have caused many to speculate about the possibility of a trade war developing between the world’s two largest economies.

“We’ll see how things progress, but we’ve certainly made a lot of investment over the years to have business come over from the Far East,” Scher said.

However, imports into the Port of Baltimore benefit many states in the mid-Atlantic region.

“Certainly a lot of business is done out of the port,” said Benjamin Orr, executive director of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, located in Baltimore. “But if there is a trade conflict with China, it’s not necessarily that the impact would land on Maryland’s economy specifically. Lots of goods that come into the port end up out of state.”

Orr said that the biggest impact of a potential trade dispute with China would likely be a loss of jobs at the port or in local industries that rely on China for business, such as container shipping companies.

According to Scott’s report, the trade deficit with China caused Maryland to lose 46,000 jobs between 2001 and 2015, approximately 1.6 percent of the state’s total workforce.

Over the 14-year period, Maryland ranked 37th among states in percentage of workforce displaced by the trade deficit with China. Most mid-Atlantic states were not significantly affected.

“The eastern region isn’t particularly susceptible to a trade war with China,” Orr said. “Some effects would be, specifically, prices on Chinese-made goods go up, which could affect Maryland shopping habits and sales tax, and the stock market could fall.”

The White House released its annual trade agenda Wednesday, which indicated that U.S. trade policy under the Trump administration could break from the standards set forth by the WTO.

According to the Washington Post, the agenda suggests the U.S. could impose unilateral tariffs against countries it feels are employing unfair trade practices, such as China.

Trump has accused China of currency and trade manipulation before and has identified the U.S.’s trade deficit with China as something his administration would like to address in future trade discussions, saying he wants to pursue “better deals” with China.

Any conflict would undoubtedly be affected by the two nations jockeying for economic position in the Asia-Pacific region, says Sara Itagaki, project associate in the trade, economic, and energy affairs group with the National Bureau of Asian Research.

In order to establish a strong U.S. economic presence in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as check China’s rising economic power, the Obama administration helped draft the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country economic agreement completed in October 2015.

Trump called the deal “catastrophic” for the American economy during his campaign and effectively withdrew the U.S. from the deal on Jan. 23.

“The TPP was the Obama administration’s prime Asian agreement,” Itagaki said in an interview with Capital News Service. “The withdrawal raises questions about (the U.S.’s) commitment in the southeast Asian region and could hurt U.S. businesses.”

Itagaki said the TPP was “contentious politically” and that there were questions about the agreement from many other politicians.

Despite Trump’s TPP withdrawal, U.S. companies are not retreating from the Pacific, according to Itagaki.

“The U.S. needed a greater presence in the region and missed its chance to anchor its economic influence in southeast Asia,” Itagaki said. “But the U.S. is still a large market for these Southeast Asian countries. They can’t ignore the U.S. economy.”

Of course, those countries cannot ignore the local and increasingly powerful economy of China, either.

China has been promoting its own multinational trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which aims to include several countries that would have been a part of the TPP, in hopes of capitalizing on the U.S.’s withdrawal and increasing its own economic presence in the area.

While competitiveness is recognized as a central part of international trade, it remains to be seen how it will affect the way the U.S. and China do business with each other.

However, the economic risk factors are great enough that the chances of a U.S.-China trade war aren’t high, according to Itagaki.

“U.S. consumers gain a lot from trade with China,” Itagaki said. “The government still has issues with China’s economic practices … but there is great benefit in trade with China for the U.S. economy.”

The unpredictability of the Trump administration, along with its proposal to break from traditional WTO trading practices, makes it difficult to foresee how the State Department will approach trade negotiations with China, but Itagaki suggests both sides should hope for a cordial agreement.

“Both governments recognize the value of their trade relationship,” Itagaki said. “Neither economy should want a conflict because both will be hurt in the end.”

By NATE HAROLD

Maryland 3.0: A Look Back at Entrepreneurship in Chestertown 30 Years Ago

While it seems to be common these days to celebrate Eastern Shore entrepreneurship, as it should be, it is sometimes hard to remember that this entrepreneurial spirit has been in Chestertown for some time. While it can be seen currently with new retail stores, manufacturing, or even courageously starting a local brewery, it is important to remember these younger people do walk in the footsteps of some very special folks who came before them.

And one story like that from the past is the remarkable founding of the Chesapeake Bank and Trust thirty years ago.

The young man at the time was a Washington College graduate named Michael Macielag who had been mentored by Roger Simpkins, the highly respected president of the Chestertown Bank for seven years but then found himself unemployed in the spring of 1986 when that Bank was to be sold off in a merger.

Facing very few prospects which would allow him to continue to live on the Shore, Mike assumed he would need to move to the Western Shore for job opportunities, but then stumbled on the news that Maryland National Bank would be selling off its Chestertown branch. Suddenly, the opportunity of a lifetime miraculously presented itself to start a new bank, and Mike made his move.

In less than a few months time, Macielag was able to attract close to 20 investors willing to put up $100,000 each or more to found the Chesapeake Bank and Trust. And the motive was a simple one from the start; they all wanted a bank to be focused on local interests and local needs without the influence and the interference of a large and distant parent corporation.

That was 30 years ago. Since then Chesapeake Bank and Trust has been faithful to the original investors mission statement and continues to be a critical resource for starting new businesses, helping with higher education loans, or allowing young couples to purchase their first home.

The Spy spent a few moments last week talking to Michael about the founding of the bank, its original mission, and how he sees the Chesapeake Bank and Trust playing a critical role in a 21st century Kent County.