A Neurosurgeon Treats a New Patient: The Chesapeake Skipjack

In this new world of redefining what “retirement” means, it probably comes as no surprise that a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon would retire to the Eastern Shore and start an entirely new vocation related to the skipjacks of the Chesapeake Bay.

That’s precisely what Dr. Randolph George did when he eventually retired from the operating room and embarked with his brother in law, Allen Rawl, on the restoration of a skipjack named Martha Lewis.  And as Allen was doing much of the physical work on the boat, Dr. George began to explore and document the boat builder, his family and the many stories that surrounded the Martha Lewis.  It also led him on a journey to discover every remaining skipjack on the Shore.

All of this is now documented in a new book that Randy has authored entitled “Memory of the Skipjack,” published by SaltWater Media.  It not only records the unique history of the Martha Lewis but documents the fifty-two remaining of what was once a fleet of 700 iconic examples of the Chesapeake Bay’s distinctive heritage.

The Spy spent some time with the author at Bullitt House a few weeks ago to chat about the book.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information or purchase “Memoir of a Skipjack” please go here 

Mid-Shore Hospice Care: The Special Needs of Vets with Deborah Grassman

It’s hard to think of anyone more qualified to talk about the needs of war veterans as they enter their final stages of life than Deborah Grassman. A nurse practitioner by training, Deborah has had a remarkable record of working at the Veterans Administration specifically focused on hospice care for 30 years, and has directly participated in the final days of over 10,000 veterans.

Those experiences led Grassman to start her own organization, Opus Peace, to educate family members and hospice volunteers to be more aware of the very different emotions many aging vets have at the end of their lives when wartime memories involuntarily surface after years, sometimes decades, of suppression.

That was the primary reason Talbot Hospice invited Deborah to the Mid-Shore so she could share those stories and what she learned a few weeks ago. The Spy sat down with her before her evening lecture to talk about the extraordinary coming to terms to take place with many veterans as a come to the close of their lives and what families can do to help facilitate an honorable and peaceful death.

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

Taking Stock: The Cambridge Hyatt Economic Development Project at 16 Years Old

It seems like ancient history now, but in the early months of 2002, there was a dramatic addition to the city of Cambridge when the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay officially opened. A few visionary leaders in Dorchester County, DC developers, and most importantly, the Maryland Economic Development Corporation made good on their plans to construct a 400 room, 650 acres, hotel and resort on the shores of the Choptank with the goal of providing a long-term benefit for the then economically struggling center of the Eastern Shore.

At the time, this multimillion-dollar project was seen by some at the time as a remarkable risk. Cambridge was not known as a tourist or conference destination, even though it was located near some of the most remarkable natural resources on the East Coast. It also did not have the advantages of being in a major city, near a major amusement park, or benefiting from a tropical climate. Why stop in Cambridge, the story went, when you could drive another hour and arrive at the beachfront communities in Delaware and Ocean City.

But now that the Hyatt has been in place for sixteen years, The Spy thought it would be a good idea to check in with its general manager, Joel Bunde, who has a unique perspective on this economic development project. That is because Joel arrived in 2005 to be part of the executive management team to run the property for four years, and has now recently returned from another tour of duty to become its general manager. It is that arc of experience that made the Spy interested to hear Joel’s general observations about the Hyatt, the remarkable renaissance of downtown Cambridge, and the collateral soft and hard benefits that have come with the then $155 million investment in the Eastern Shore’s future.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Additional aerial video content by Micah Berkley.  For more information about the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay please go here.


Making the Case to Save Tilghman Island Elementary School

It is typically the sad case these days that small, underpopulated elementary public schools are frequently being closed by their school districts.

Through the gut-wrenching process of what is now called “school consolidation,” these districts are faced with the terrible task of closing down these cherished local assets as a result of dwindling student enrollments and the financial consequences that come with those lower numbers.

This trend may be the fate of Tilghman Island’s only elementary school, which has a capacity of 150 students but currently has only 62 children in attendance. While the Talbot County Public Schools District has not made any decision on TES yet, there was a clear warning given that the Tilghman school would either need to increase its enrollment or undoubtedly face closure down the road.

That’s a hard thing to do for a community that is thirteen miles from the nearly town.

But before that fateful decision is made, the citizens of Tilghman, the teachers and parents of the elementary school, and the active role played by the Tilghman Community Youth Association is going to make damn sure that doesn’t happen.

And one of those remarkable people leading this fight could not be better prepared to do so than volunteer Jay Shotel.

With his long tenure as a professor at George Washington University in the field of education, Jay is extraordinarily in his comfort role as he takes on the role of advocate, cheerleader, and admissions counselor to make sure that Tilghman’s elementary school not only continues to exist but eventually becomes one of most unique schools in the state.

We talked to Jay a few weeks ago at Bullitt House to understand more what Jay and his colleagues of the Tilghman School Facility Utilization Committee are doing find new students to fill those desks.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information on saving Tilghman School please go here

Mid-Shore Craftsmanship: McMartin & Beggins on Making Historical Furniture

My village of Wittman has a variety of creative residents-Grammy award-winning authors, artists and the furniture makers of McMartin & Beggins. Both partners are named Jim, both began their careers as boat builders, and both artisans have a passion and respect for wood.

Every piece is created with benchcrafted techniques out of locally sourced wood. Their work ranges from transforming part of the famous Wye Oak tree into a desk and podium for the Governor of Maryland to furniture restoration for historic houses to contemporary designs.

Jim McMartin moved to St. Michaels from Annapolis and opened a furniture making shop in the Mill Complex. When Jim Beggins arrived in St. Michaels by boat, fate led him to Jim McMartin. After working together for several years, they became partners. They complement each other beautifully and work seamlessly on every project. Jim McMartin’s artistic talent is illustrated by his meticulous drawings of each piece of furniture made in the shop. Jim Beggins’ analytical style and attention to detail ensure quality control. Their favorite period for furniture is the Federal (1790-1830), with its clean, classic lines and delicate forms that highlight the beauty of the wood. Pieces in their showroom would be right at home in any museum period room.

Their 4,500 square foot complex houses a showroom, office/reference library, workshop and storage sheds where slabs of local wood species such as cherry, maple, syrup poplar, red cedar, walnut and white oak rest on spacers awaiting their turn for a new life in the hands of these master craftsmen. The logs are milled on site and are carefully stacked on spacers to dry slowly. The “stacks” are a reference library so Jim or Jim can find the right slab with the wood grain needed for a particular design. In their workshop you will find both modern machinery as well as the same period tools that Hepplewhite or Sheraton would have used years ago. Just like those famous forebears,

McMartin & Beggins work by hand meticulously and slowly on pieces made to order that will become heirlooms.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about McMartin and Beggins, please go here

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

Tony Hiss has a Plan for the Delmarva

It should be said up front that Tony Hiss’s family has long been familiar with the Eastern Shore well before he was born. With his famous and controversial father, Alger, and mother, Priscilla, frequently staying in Kent County to visit friends and their older son at camp in Quaker Neck, or, with his uncle, Don, a partner at Covington and Burling, having a second home in Talbot County, the roots to this area and its landscape are deeply felt. But his desire to ecologically and culturally protect the Shore is much more tied to his professional life as a writer, first with the New Yorker and now as an independent author.

With such well received books such as The Experience of Place and In Motion: The Experience of Travel, Tony has a impressive history of being intrigued by humans interacting in the city, the countryside, and in the wilderness. And that includes new ways of planning and managing these immediate and often overlooked places.

All of this has made a perfect background to support Tony’s new quest to refine the entire Delmarva Peninsula by designating it by the federal government as a national reserve, very similar to the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve with its 1.1 million acres. Hiss believes that by  re-identifying the region as such will lead to the kind of thoughtful planning seen with the Pinelands as it protects landscapes, manages growth and ecologically protects enageranged species from unnecessary extinction.

The Spy sat down with Tony in the White Swan Tavern’s living room to chat about what the Delmarva could really be in the future.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length

Legal Marijuana Arrives on the Shore: Meet Ash + Paige of Centreville

At least in some parts of the Eastern Shore, if there was a referendum held tomorrow proposing that marijuana be banned in Maryland for the next two centuries, the odds are pretty good that it would pass by an overwhelming majority. While that might be an exaggeration, it is accurate to say that the Shore, with its mostly rural and politically conservative citizens, have a very skeptical view of the use of cannabis for any reason.

But the state in which they reside had quite a different point of view as Maryland joined 29 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing the medical or recreational use of the plant. And, as a result, Annapolis has recently finalized the issuing of permits for marijuana distribution outlets.

So it may be a shock for those on the Shore to see that one of those medical cannabis dispensaries is almost ready for business in none other than Centreville, Maryland.

Found in a professional park alongside doctor offices and the YMCA, last-minute preparations are underway for the opening of Ash + Ember Cannabis, the commercial name of the store owned by Hippocratic Growth, LLC as it prepares to open its doors as the first legal venue on the Mid-Shore to legally sell medical cannabis.

Adding to this notable moment is the fact that Hippocratic Growth is actually a family business.  Sisters, Ashley Herr and Paige Colen, along with the help of other family members, led an almost four-year effort to reach this milestone. Working through state delays on licensing  and some opposition from the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners by blocking a building permit (an appeal filed by Hippocratic Growth is pending at the Court of Special Appeal), the opening of Ash + Ember has become an exciting climax to battle long waged.

Unapologetically pro-pot, the sisters see Ash + Ember as the first of many in the eventual legalization of the recreational use of marijuana and therefore have designed a business plan that will eventually transition from a medical dispensary to a well-branded boutique store that will eventually produce and design its products no differently than a beer microbrewery does today.

The Spy sat down with the owners last week at Ash + Ember to talk about this remarkable new chapter in Eastern Shore entrepreneurship.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Ash + Ember Cannabis please go here


Profiles in Spirituality: Unitarian Universalism with the Mid-Shore’s Reverend Sue Browning

According to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s own data, the U.U. Church currently has just under 200,000 members in the entire United States, and about two hundred of them attend church in Kent County or Talbot County on any given Sunday.

In comparison, the Episcopal Church, another relatively small denomination, has about 3,500 active members in the same region, while the Catholic faith comes close to having 7,000 adherents.

These numbers may suggest that the Unitarians represent a tiny part of the religious fabric on the Delmarva, but those statistics do not account for the extremely high level of activism these small congregations — one in Kent and the other Talbot County — participate in during the year in their communities. In fact, when one factors in contributions that the U.U. Church make locally in such critical areas of concern for social justice, immigration, and the environment, one then can one see the full impact of the Unitarian Universalists on the Mid-Shore.

And one person who sees that impact on an almost daily basis is the Reverend Sue Browning, who is in the unique role of being the minister of both the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton as well as the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River in Kent County.

The Spy sat down with Rev. Browning to talk a bit about Unitarian Universalism as a faith, which is liberal by nature and characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” In other words, Unitarian Universalist members do not accept a creed per se but are unified by a shared search for spiritual growth.

We also talked to Sue about the important role that faith, unconventional as it may be in the U.U. Church, plays in the life of its members, the spiritual dimensions of aging, and the need to exercise one’s compassion and gratitude like a muscle which will only gets stronger with time.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Mid-Shore Unitarian Universalist Churches, please go here for Chestertown and here for Easton




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.

Maryland 3.0: St. Michaels Very Own ‘Click and Clack’ Mike Kealy

For those who still mourn the departure of “Car Talk” on National Public Radio and its beloved hosts, the”Click and Clack” brothers (Tom and Ray Magliozzi), Spy readers might find it comforting to know that perhaps one of their long lost brothers can be found in St. Michaels at Bay Hundred Automotive.

While it’s not a total match, Mike Kealy, the owner of the repair shop, comes pretty darn close despite being younger and possessing a Long Island accent rather than a Boston one.

And like the Magliozzi brothers, Mike entered into the world of car repair with a college degree in engineering. In fact, Mike was drawn into the auto mechanics world in the early 1980s when manufacturing just started to use such things as fuel injection and other technologies that made it enjoyable for him. He also shares with the ‘Click and Clack’ boys an uncanny curiosity about cars, motors, and the incredibly sophisticated software that is now baked in our cars these days.

With family members moving to the Eastern Shore over the past few decades, Mike eventually decided to leave Long Island for St. Michaels without knowing a soul in town, but with a potent combination of entrepreneurship and a passion for working in a small town. With the help of such people like Buck Duncan, the president of the St. Michaels Bank at the time, and the devotion of a growing number of satisfied customers, Kealy was not only able to grow his business, including a new venture with his brother serving boats, but also built commercial rental properties alongside his shop on St. Michaels Road.

The Spy sat down with Mike to talk about the challenges that come with being a small repair shop in a world of well-financed car dealerships, including the need to have full access to critical software from car manufacturers. He also makes a compelling case to service your vehicle locally, regardless of age, as he unveils the hidden truth about car parts and dealer service departments.

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