Profile: Selling the Big Homes at Auction with Dan DeCaro

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Just a few months ago, a three-section painting by artist Francis Bacon (Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, 1984) sold at auction at Christie’s for roughly $80 million. This staggering sum is perhaps the best example of what can happen when one matches a unique historic narrative with a particular asset and then add international marketing and human nature.

Even over time, there remains no serious alternative to a private auction when sellers of fine art, automobiles, jewelry, rugs, or antiques are seeking to find the best vehicle for the true market value of these assets.

But oddly enough, real estate, historically one of the first assets to be sold using the auction process, has preferred the broker/agent model for the better part of the last 100 years. With Hollywood depictions of bankers on the steps of distressed farmhouses not helping the image, houses going to auction has been stereotyped as the last resort for homeowners or their lending institutions. That “stigma” however seems to be lifting when it comes to large homes, and that includes the Eastern Shore big estates.

Local real estate expert Dan DeCaro has been leading the charge for the auction option for unique properties for over thirty-five years in every part of the country.

In his Spy interview, Dan talks about his own history with auctions, the marketplace for high value homes, and his own observations on the high end real estate sector.

In this video is approximately seven minutes in length

Celebrating a Decade of Plein Air in Easton

painting by the bypass

Ten years ago, the founders of the annual outdoor art festival in Easton likely didn’t know that they were building the foundation of what would be one of the country’s finest art events. Yet, ten years later, Plein Air Easton is known as exactly that.

We begin to spy the painters around Talbot County each year in mid-July, popping up in the unlikeliest of settings – in the middle of a grain field, or perched next to a tombstone in a historic cemetery. Yesterday, one plein air painter was seen on a tiny bench at the edge of the busy intersection of Rt 33 and the by-pass – looking as if a sudden wind might blow her off into the marsh. Always willing to interact with the public, plein air painters are ambassadors of the art world, allowing everyday people to step up and watch them bring life to blank canvas. The festival captures this spirit of appreciation for the art form and for the culture that surrounds it.

painting by the bypass painting at easton point JOhn B. Sills in garden Jill Basham

On Monday evening, I had a chance to meet two Connecticut painters who rode out of the St. Michaels harbor to paint skipjacks at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum aboard Island Lady, Jake Flory’s handsome deadrise. Island Lady runs sightseeing charters and tours around local waters in Bay Hundred. On the boat, Len Mizerek and David Bareford set up their easels and began painting just as a large thunderstorm loomed large to the west. They took different approaches to starting the work in the 20 minutes before lightning and rain chased us off the water. Bareford began with the architecture of the painting, the long straight lines of the skipjack’s mast and the bulkhead. Mizerek started in with color right away, capturing emotion and spirit.

Len and David painting aboard Island Lady



David B painting

Len Mizerek painting

“Easton has the best Plein Air event, period” the two agreed. They should know. They’re both renowned lifelong artists who have painted in this tradition at events all over the country.

Plein Air Easton selects 58 carefully juried painters in total, and this year, they come from as far as Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Canada, and as near as Easton and Trappe. Each painter selected represents the very best in the field. With almost $25,000 in prizes and opportunities to sell their work to hungry collectors, every painter in the event has a chance for a very successful weekend in Easton.

The festival continues through Sunday. It is headquartered at the Avalon Theatre, with speakers and demonstrations sprinkled throughout the community, from the Academy Art Museum to local shops and galleries. In its typical community-collaborative spirit, Rise Up Coffee has set up a pop-up cafe inside the Avalon Theatre. For the first time ever, the Theatre has been transformed into an information center and gallery, showing the work of all of the artists throughout the entire week.

There’s something for every art lover at the festival. From demonstrations and lectures to quick draw events in the heart of downtown, this week and weekend offer a continual stream of opportunities to get up close and personal to the art and artists. Organizers maintain an up to date map showing the painting locations of all 58 at all times.

Robert Barber


blank canvas

The main events this weekend are the Quick Draw on Saturday from 10am – noon, with the exhibit and sale from noon – 2:00 pm. Last year, it was said that a painting was sold every 45 seconds during the sale. At 1:30 pm, the awards will be announced. Sunday’s Next Generation Quick Draw always attracts a crowd. Between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, art will be created, shared, exhibited and sold on the street in downtown Easton.

For more information about the festival, head on into downtown Easton and immerse yourself – it’s one of our region’s most fun weekends and one of the nation’s best of its kind. If you’re an artist, bring $10 and step up to join in the fun. Stop by to congratulate the good people at the Avalon Foundation, because this too, like so many wonderful local events, is the work of the Avalon Foundation.

To learn more without leaving your seat, click here.

Governor to Celebrate Groundbreaking of Eastern Shore Conservation Center

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Join Eastern Shore Land Conservancy for a groundbreaking with Gov. Martin O’Malley at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center on S. Washington Street on Friday, July 18. The event is open to the public.

O’Malley dedicated $1 million toward the historic renovation project in his FY2014 capital budget. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. at the site of the former McCord building and neighboring Brick Row, the buildings that will become part of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center campus.

Also speaking will by former Gov. Harry Hughes, Environmental Protection Agency Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin, and ESLC Capital Campaign co-Chairman Jenny Stanley.

ESLC since 1990 has helped protect more than 56,000 acres of farms, forests and wetlands. As the organization approached its 20th year, ESLC leaders realized Eastern Shore farms and forests are supported by and support Eastern Shore towns. The Shore’s unique rural communities can continue to thrive with the help of green infrastructure design, outdoor recreational opportunity, and access to local foods. ESLC has the resources and years of experience to recommend and implement good design and to help counsel community leaders about keeping towns great places to live, work, and play.

To that end, ESLC broadened its mission to include these things and is leading by example with the concept of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. ESLC will leave its home in the beautiful woods, near the Wye River, and put their stake in a vulnerable area of the Town of Easton. In addition to bringing ESLC staff and skills to the community, ESLC leaders envision a new day for the community and for nonprofit collaboration.

The historic McCord Laundry Building and Brick Row are part of Easton’s National Register Historic District. Though currently abandoned, they are beautiful examples of early 20th Century commercial architecture. The project is design to have a catalytic effect on the South Washington Street corridor, where the renovation of the dilapidated McCord building and Brick Row, which was damaged by fire, has the ability to reenergize an important connection between the northern and southern neighborhoods in Easton. What is now vacant and lifeless will be a vibrant hub of community, conservation and learning.

It will bring approximately 50 jobs to downtown Easton and will serve as an example for conservationists, urban planning, community design and redevelopment experts of what can be done to retain healthy, walkable and economically sustainable rural towns.

ESLC will relocate to the building, and nonprofit partners are signing leases to be part of this collaborative environment. It will house public space for educational programming, forums, concerts and meetings about issues concerning Eastern Shore residents and organizations. It will offer a café and outdoor public leisure space to encourage conversation and collaboration among the tenants, as well as among community members.

Most importantly, it will be the catalyst for nonprofit organizations to work to address common challenges to our beautiful home on the Delmarva Peninsula and to educate and inspire the next generation of community-minded conservationists.

Women Working on the Water: Jennifer Kuhn at the CBMM Boatyard


It’s hard not to notice how happy Jenn Kuhn becomes when talking about her job running the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Boatyard. In a field that has historically been heavily defined by men, Jenn is becoming a new role model for girls and women as she leads dozens of volunteers to reproducing some of the Chesapeake Bay’s most beautifully designed wooden boats. In many cases, it is the first time many have worked with wood and tools.

In her chat with the Spy, Jenn talks about her relationship with boats and wood, her building projects, and her enjoyment at mentoring others eager to protect the cultural heritage of boat building on the Chesapeake Bay.

The video is approximately four minutes in length

Remembering Mike Menzies by Howard Freedlander


My wife and I lost a dear friend. Talbot County lost an extraordinary leader.

Mike Menzies died of cancer Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at the age of 67.

As President and CEO of Easton Bank and Trust Co., past chairman of the Talbot Hospice Foundation and the United Fund of Talbot County and a member of the board of directors of the Mid Shore Community Foundation, Mike epitomized professionalism, civility and competence.


Mike Menzies

In his eulogy about his brother on June 28 at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Oxford, Scott Menzies characterized Mike Menzies as “determined, deliberate and devoted.” And so he was. He was determined to run a successful community bank and give back to the community, he was deliberate in analyzing corporate opportunities and trends and planning for the long-term health of Talbot County non-profits with which he was associated–and absolutely devoted to the organizations he served so diligently.

During his four-year battle with multiple myeloma, Mike was always positive, always upbeat. I was convinced, as were others, that his attitude extended his life. Days before he died, when questioned about what gave him the greatest pride during his career, he hardly hesitated and pointed to his community service. He understood so clearly his responsibilities as a bank president and civic leader.

During his service as chairman of the national Independent Community Bankers Association, he spent a lot of time in Washington, DC, often called upon to testify before congressional committees, as well as the Federal Reserve. While he enjoyed the challenge, he often spoke about the overwhelming influence of the nation’s largest banks in influencing political decisions.

Yet, he seemed determined to convey the goodness of community banking. His message was deliberate in its arguments. He was devoted to banking as practiced in communities throughout our country.

Among his many affiliations, Mike was a 1999 graduate of Leadership Maryland, a statewide program for leaders in the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors. After learning about his death, a classmate wrote how Mike reached out to him when his wife died in 2007. Mike’s first wife died suddenly in 2004. This classmate wrote:

“He gave me a small paperback book to read and it helped me as I moved through the process of grief. I read and cherish the book and I give the same book to family and close friends who face the same journey we have taken. A very special man in my eyes.”

Mike Menzies left the world a better place. His family, friends and associates would attest to that.

Bummer: Tropical System Heading Our Way Next Weekend

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A tropical system may affect our region later this week into the first part of the weekend. Rain is possible everywhere in our area, but the heaviest rain might occur closer to the coast. That’s where the strongest winds should be too. Rip currents are likely, and tidal flooding is also a possibility.

The Executive Summary is as follows:

• A series of cold frontal boundaries will move into the region Wednesday-Friday. Tropical moisture moving north is expected to intersect with these boundaries, producing showers and thunderstorms, mainly Thursday afternoon into Friday.

• Showers and thunderstorms could be slow moving with heavy rainfall. Some flash flooding is possible where thunderstorms stall or train over the same regions.

• An area of low pressure now forming off the southeast US coastline is likely to become a tropical system within the next 48 hours according to the National Hurricane Center. The interaction of this system with the aforementioned fronts could lead to an enhanced heavy rain threat.

• There is still some uncertainty with the track of this low pressure system. However, a majority of the data suggests an eventual northerly track to the Carolina coastline before curving northeast off the Mid-Atlantic coastline.

• Depending on the eventual track of this low, winds and tides may be of concern, especially Thursday and Friday.

• Rip currents will also be a major threat throughout most of the July 4th holiday weekend.

This is not Superstorm Sandy. No landfall is expected in New Jersey or Delaware. However…heavy rain, winds, tidal and freshwater flooding, rip currents, and heavy surf are possible as we head into a major holiday weekend. Stay tuned for the latest information at

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Why We Love Bird Dogs


In this installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andrew McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, is back in the field, but this time with his new bird dog Boone. In a case of “this dog can definitely hunt,” Andrew sets Boone off to show off his extraordinary hunting skills.

This video is approximately three minutes. Gibson Anthony is the videographer.

Local Leader Mike Menzies is Dead at 67

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Robert Michael “Mike” Stewart Menzies, Sr., president and CEO of Easton Bank and Trust Co, and longtime civic leader, died of cancer in hospice care on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. A resident of Tred Avon Circle in Easton, he was 67.

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Robert Michael “Mike” Stewart Menzies

Born in Baltimore and raised on Broadway Road in the Worthington Valley, he was the son of John T. Menzies Jr. and Priscilla Fuller Menzies. Mr. Menzies attended Fox Lane High School in Mount Kisco, N.Y. In 1965 he went on to graduate from Trinity Pawling School in Pawling, N.Y. He attended Randolph Macon College in Ashland, VA, where he graduated in 1969. Mike earned his CPA from what is now Loyola University, Maryland.

Prior to his association with Easton Bank and Trust, Mr. Menzies served in executive positions at several Maryland banking institutions, including The First Bank of Frederick, MD, The Talbot Bank of Easton and Maryland National Bank in Easton and in Annapolis.

He devoted many years to the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), where he served as chairman. The role allowed him to testify on Capitol Hill before the Senate and House Finance committees, the Judiciary and Small Business committees, the Senate Subcommittee on FDIC Insurance. He also testified before the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Mr. Menzies had a long history of community involvement, serving as chair of the Talbot Hospice Foundation; chair of the United Fund of Talbot County; a director of the Mid Shore Community Foundation; a member of the Rotary Club of Easton; a member of the Easton YMCA Investment Committee and a member of the Maryland Institute of CPAs. In addition, Mr. Menzies also was a 1999 graduate of Leadership Maryland, where he served as treasurer. He also was a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Club, the Tred Avon Yacht Club and the Talbot Country Club.

“When asked what gave him the greatest pride about his career, Mike, flashing his wonderful smile, talked proudly about his volunteer activities, giving back to the community,” Howard Freedlander, a longtime friend, said. “He loved helping customers and friends resolve their problems. He was a terrific adviser and friend.”

His passions included flying planes, boating and spending time with his family.

Services will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 28, 2014 at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Oxford, MD. A reception will follow at the church.

In 2010, Mr. Menzies married Marjorie M. (Midge) Fuller. In addition to his wife, Mr. Menzies is survived by his two sons, R. Michael S. Menzies Jr. and his wife Arika of Estacada, OR and Wade Callender Menzies and his wife Laura of Charlotte, NC; his mother, Priscilla Fuller Menzies; his brother, Scott Menzies of Upperco, MD; his sister, Priscilla Menzies Keller of Chagrin Falls, Ohio; stepson, Wade Perry Fuller and his wife, April, and step-granddaughter, Isabel, of West Chester, PA along with several nieces and nephews. Mike was predeceased by
his first wife, Marita, his older brother, Jock and his father, John.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Talbot Hospice Foundation, 586 Cynwood Drive, Easton, MD 21601 or The Church of the Holy Trinity, 502 S. Morris Street, Oxford, MD 21654.

Funeral arrangements are by Fellows, Helfenbein & Newnam Funeral Home, P.A. For online tributes, please visit

Pathways to Recovery: Tori Brummell and Fresh Start


The Mid-Shore Fresh Start Program is an Easton community based non-profit organization designed to offer life-saving transitional housing to bridge the gap between treatment and long term recovery for recovering addicts and alcoholics.

Here, Director Tori Brummell speaks about the project which has succeeded in helping 52 men during the three year period since their founding in 2011.

Fresh Start offers stable housing for up to one year along with supportive resources like employment/job readiness activities, parenting skills and education improvement options.

The transitional housing is serving the five-county area of Queen Anne’s, Kent, Talbot, Caroline and Dorcester.

As MSFS seeks grant funding, it continues to operate with the support of the local Talbot community. “Often the residents that come here do not have jobs or the money to afford the rent so we underwrite that until they are employed. Our expenses run about $4,500 for three apartments, utilities, office space and office expenses, ” Brummell says.

MSFS has received awards from the state delegate’s office, Governor’s office, NAACP and Talbot Partnership.

Tori Brummell, Director, talks about the program here.



For more information, contact Tori Brummell at 443-253-6585




Exit Interview: Mitchell Reiss Leaves Bunting Hall


While the Spy’s interview with Washington College’s president Mitchell Reiss last week was intended to be a conversation about his first four years at the 232 year old liberal arts institution, it turned out to be a look back at his only four years in Chestertown. That is due to the breaking news this morning that Dr. Reiss has accepted the position of President and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

In his interview with the Spy, President Reiss looks back at where the College stands now, and some of the many challenges he faced since arriving on campus from William and Mary in May of 2009.  He also talks about the College as well as Chestertown’s role in protecting the Chester River, the College-Town task force chaired by John Moag, and finally how firmly he believes Washington College’s future.

The video is approximately fourteen minutes in length