About Andy Goddard

Chestertown Celebrates Earth Day & Man’s Best Friend April 19th

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Chestertown will celebrate Earth Day on

Earth Day celebrations and the Mutt Strut will both take place in Chestertown on Saturday April 19.

Celebrate our planet on Saturday, April 19 at the annual Earth Day Festival in Downtown Chestertown’s Memorial Plaza from 9 am to 1 pm.

This event, co-sponsored by the Town of Chestertown, the Chester River Association, and the Washington College Center for Environment and Society features family friendly activities, face painting and live music along with an array of eco-friendly services and goods, and conservation organizations. Learn about growing local foods and living sustainably with the environment. Recycle your batteries and bulbs courtesy of Hanleyman Services. Free paper shredding will also be available on site.

Don’t forget to stop at Infinity Recycling’s popular “guess the weight” flatbed with its bales of crushed cans, plastic bottles and paper. Gift certificates to local restaurants will be awarded to those guessing the closest weight. The Mt. Olive Church will offer fried fish and other goodies, or grab something to eat at the farmers’ market or one of the locally run downtown restaurants.

In addition to the Earth Day festivities, the annual Mutt Strut will be hosted by the Humane Society of Kent County. Registration starts at 9 am in Fountain Park, the parade at 10. The “strut” winds through town and culminates at the Courthouse lawn for fun and agility games. For more information email kenthumane@yahoo.com.

Stroll around Chestertown’s beautiful streets amid the spring blooms, check out the vendors, eat local food, enjoy the music, and stop by the end of High Street to admire the Chester – what a great way to celebrate Earth Day!

The Sassafras River Grill Master

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Ever since this Spy can remember, there has been friendly rivalry between the Chester and Sassafras River boaters and homeowners , but as of this past August, weekends on the Sassafras River now feature something the Chester is sorely lacking – “Smoke on the Water,” The Grill Meister’s floating BBQ.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 8.13.06 AMSaturday mornings Gunner Roe, aka The Grill Meister, and crew leave their Sassafras Harbor Marina berth at 8 :30, (or as soon as they get out of bed and get to the dock), and head downriver just past the Georgetown marinas to Nickel Beach, renamed Dollar Ninety-Eight by locals due to hefty gas price increases, and moor. Sundays they cruise to popular Lloyd’s Creek, near the mouth of the Sassafras. This is strictly a carry-out, or “float-out,“ as Gunner calls it. There is a delivery dinghy – you can even call ahead – 410 708 7077; they will deliver to any boat or dock in the area. Low tide at Lloyd’s Creek people even wade or swim over. The PA system can call out when your order is ready, accompanied by assorted oinks, squeals and moos.

The breakfast menu: sausage or ham and egg croissants, maple hotcakes, omelet wraps and pastries, is available all day, – a smart decision as we all know some of those boaters like to party! The barbecue and grill is ready by 11 AM at the latest. The house, er, boat sandwich specialties are pulled pork BBQ, Texas Style Beef Brisket BBQ and the “spanked” chicken breast. Sorry, no fries, but there are burgers and dogs, slaw, potato and macaroni salad and a wide variety of Hershey’s Ice Cream delights. They stay open until sometime between 5 and 7 PM, depending on crowd and weather. Gunner hasn’t forgotten the four-legged customers, either, he has a big jar of complimentary treats. To his knowledge no one has bought a sandwich for their dog- yet.

The Grill Meister has been doing land-based catering since 1991, although he has been in the BBQ “biz” since 1980, when his family decided their Wye Mills gas station would be a good spot to open for a chicken barbecue stand. One day a customer was watching them slap sauce on the chicken, and referred to it as “spanked“ chicken. There is now Spanking Sauce, and Spank It Red Sauce. And in ‘85 the Washington Post’s Phyllis Richman named the stand as one of the best places to dine on the Eastern Shore. But for the past 15 years Gunner has wanted to operate a floating barbecue, ever since he was in Georgetown selling ribs and pork for a Fourth of July celebration. He looked at all the boats and thought, “How can I get out on the water and sell food.”

In October of 2012 he purchased a houseboat from Worton Creek Marina. The interior was gutted, and painted inside and out. He added 3 refrigerators, a freezer, gas stove, and custom-made grill on the deck. He teamed up with an Elkton High art teacher to design the tail, snout and ears. ( The snout is a collapsible yard can.) The Kent County Health Department had not dealt with “a mobile unit on the water, but Cecil County had, so inspectors from both counties worked with Gunner to get his permit. A name the boat contest on Facebook netted a number of possibilities. Some of the runners-up: Porky’s Revenge, Oink Oink Splash, When Pigs Float, and 50 Shades of Pork (vetoed as not exactly PC). He settled for “Smoke on the Water.“ There were a few setbacks, estimated launch date was prior to Memorial Day Weekend, the traditional beginning of the boating season. She finally went in the water in mid summer, and was selling BBQ the last weekend in August. And how is business? Gunner said that the delivery dingy has quite a few miles on it already.

Weather permitting, “Smoke on the Water” will be cruising the Sassafras at least through the end of September, hopefully into mid-October. And for those of you on the Chester and Bohemia rivers, Gunner says, “Stay tuned for other animals to show up at a marina near you.”

For more pictures see his Facebook page: The Grill Meister

Cooler Weather Perfect for Crazy Days this Weekend

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Chestertown merchants will have plenty of deals inside and out during Downtown Chestertown Association’s annual Crazy Days, beginning Thursday, July 25 and running through Saturday the 27. Downtown shop owners and staff have been busy sorting merchandise and deciding what kind of ‘deals’ they will be offering.

Thirsty shoppers may want to stop by Chestertown Natural Foods, where they are handing out free cups of ice-cold organic lemonade. Staff person Charie Holt noted that they will have discounted health and wellness-related used books and, “more crazy sales inside.” Also on Cannon Street, Mimi’s Closet is offering a selection of half- price summer tees in addition to other sale items.

Book-lovers should not bypass Bookplate on Cross Street – books galore for all ages and all interests. “We’re so crazy, we’ll go through Sunday,” said owner Tom Martin. Across the street, Twigs and Teacups will have, “…their usual irregular array of stuff out front starting at five cents.” Such a deal!

River City Upholstery has designer fabric remnants from companies like Robert Allen, United & Kravet at $5 per yard, and is also offering small, zippered clutch bags with handles in loads of colors and patterns at $6 each.

Houston’s Dockside Emporium has half-price jewelry and 50-75% off clothing. Colonial Candles, greeting and boxed cards, and Roma photo frames will be among the goodies in front of The Finishing Touch. New this year- the Historical Society of Kent County is discounting Betterton and Kent Square vintage photo mugs, Historic Homes of Kent County with matching ceramic trivet, and even Lucy the Goose backpacks.

Don’t forget to check out the deals at Sophisticated Vintage (furniture, lamps, decorative accessories) once you’ve perused the tables at Paul’s Shoe Store. Down on the waterfront, the Fish Whistle is offering free iced tea and lemonade with your meal.

McGruff the Crime Dog will be patrolling the streets, and there will be plenty of activities for the younger set, including free face painting Friday and Saturday. Friday morning, the Kent County Parks and Recreation Youth in Action group will have games, arts and crafts available, Garfield Playmakers will entertain with improv, and Dr. Nancy Fox will teach tick prevention with a puppet show and story telling. You may wish to take a break and cool off at the Garfield Center Friday afternoon at 1 pm, where they will present a one hour concert geared toward children with the human BeatBox and hip hop artist Christylez Bacon ($5 ticket). Saturday events include casual story telling hosted by the Kent County Public Library, a demonstration by East West Martial Arts, and a Pie Eating Contest sponsored by Bill Arrowood.

The full schedule is listed below.

Thursday July 25 Let the shopping begin!

Friday July 26 Fun in the Park: 10am – noon Games and Arts & Crafts hosted by KC Parks & Rec
10:30 am-11:30 am Improvisational Fun with Garfield Playmakers
11am – 1 pm Free Face Painting (Steve Mumford)

1 pm Christylez Bacon – Human BeatBox & Hiphop Artist (at Garfield Center $5)
9 am – 3pm Dr Nancy Fox preventive education puppet show

& story time-Hide & Seek, No Ticks Please

Saturday July 27 Fun in the Park: 10 am – 1 pm Free Face Painting (Amber)
10 am Snackable Stories Saturday with Kent County Public Library
10:30 am East West Martial Arts Demo
12:30 pm Pie Eating Contest
All Day: Break-a-Board $3 (proceeds donated to Women in Need)
& Dr. Nancy Fox puppet show & story time

Downtown Association Celebrates “Independents’ Celebration” July 5

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The annual “Independents’ Celebration” presented by the Downtown Chestertown Association will take place Friday, July 5 in Fountain Park from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in conjunction with downtown’s monthly First Friday event.

“Independents’ Celebration” features live music by Music Life owner Bill Drazga, followed by local favorites, the Blues-Keepers, along with complimentary cotton candy, popcorn and sno cones sponsored by local, independent businesses and merchants, along with $1 hot dogs and 50 cent soft drinks. There are also giveaways including flags, star necklaces, patriotic rubber duckies, and pinwheels, all in Fountain Park, with extra antics and enthusiasm provided by Garfield Playmakers.

This is the fifth year for the “Independents’ Celebration” which “celebrates” Chestertown’s local, independent businesses, and is presented by the Downtown Chestertown Association, a voluntary non-profit membership organization of businesses, non-profit groups and people interested in the well-being of downtown Chestertown.

“Downtown Chestertown is more than just a shopping destination, event co-chair Andy Goddard said, “it is also a center for many activities that are important to our lives – whether those are parades, the farmers’ market, festivals, theatrical and musical events, our town and County offices, Washington College, historic, arts and non-profit organizations. An active downtown business district is the backdrop for all those things, and by extending our hospitality and inviting people to come experience downtown we hope they will feel an ‘ownership’ in its future.”

Event sponsors include Chesapeake Bank and Trust, the Chester River Association, Yerkes Construction, Houston’s Dockside Emporium, the Chestertown Recreation Commission, Houck’s Menswear, Doug Ashley Realtors, The Finishing Touch, Gabriel’s of Chestertown, the Historical Society of Kent County, Massoni Gallery, River City Upholstery and the Lemon Leaf Café.

Profile: Lemon Leaf Cafe

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lemonleaf ExteriorJR Alfree obviously did not pay attention to the dismal record of restaurant failures when opening the Lemon Leaf Cafe in Chestertown just over two years ago. (A cursory review of statistics: an average of nine out of ten fail within the first year.) The cafe has quickly become one of the town’s established eateries.The Spy sat down with Alfree recently to discuss his success.

Born and raised in Galena, Alfree worked in a variety of local restaurants while growing up, operated a luncheonette in the Rudnick’s barn on Saturdays, and had his own catering business in the early ’80s. He then left the food industry, proceeding to work with various Fortune 500 companies for close to fifteen years, predominantly in human resources. When the recession hit in 2008, Alfree was let go. “I was over confident that I could find a job. I looked for two years,” he said. “I decided I had to reinvent myself to survive.” That meant moving back to the Eastern Shore, networking with family and friends, availing himself of their support while searching for the perfect spot to open a restaurant. He looked into a variey of spaces around the area – even Rehoboth (rent too high, too much competition), finally settling on his current location, on the corner of Cross and Cannon Streets in downtown Chestertown.

Alfree had the name picked out prior to the location. While living in LA, he belonged to a supper club; everyone took turns cooking for twelve. One evening, extremely tardy for his own dinner, he cobbled together a meal from items readily available, including lemons and lemon leaves from a tree in his backyard. Friends took to calling it dinner at the “Lemon Leaf Cafe.”

“I want my restaurant to feel just like my dining room at home,” Alfree told the Spy. “I try to go around and meet everyone – all of my guests.” The description ‘Southern hospitality’ came to mind when he related the story of going across the street to Play It Again Sam and purchasing a cappuccino for a guest who was upset there was none available at the Lemon Leaf.

Describing his cafe as a niche for classic Eastern Shore dishes: (cream of crab, crab cake, oyster stew, chicken and dumplings, hearty breakfast selections with ‘flannel cakes), Alfree added that he likes to introduce dishes from other locations, such as his Malibu salad with Craisins, blue cheese and glazed walnuts. Longtime family friends Miss Joanne Mulford and Norarene Hicks help staff the kitchen, making pastry from scratch and using favorite family recipes. Asked whether he still spent time in the kitchen Alfree laughed and said that his kitchen staff prefers that he stay out. He added that when interviewing a prospective employee, his last question is, “Do you mind cleaning up after people, because I’m a messy cook.” If they say yes, they get the job.

Although he did not originally include catering in his business plan, Alfree said it has since become an increasingly good proportion of his sales. “Chestertown has become a hot spot for destination weddings. We’ve had brides from Pennsylvania as well as San Francisco.” The catering menu offers everything from single platters to crab feasts; including homemade ice cream made on location with a hundred year old, old – fashioned machine. “Weddings are a boon for a number of local businesses; florists, event planners, hotels, etc.,” Alfree said, and that he was, “.. constantly sending people to other local shops and services.”

As to the rumors that the Lemon Leaf is moving, Alfree responded, “..we’re not moving anywhere, but I would consider opening a second location.” Current hours are Sunday – Wednesday, 7:30 am to 3 pm, Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 am to 8 pm.

Lemon Leaf Cafe
117 S Cross St
Chestertown, MD 21620
443 282 0004

 

Downtown Report: Chestertown Merchants Bullish on 2013

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Encouraged by the recent opening of two businesses in downtown Chestertown, Music Life and Eric Fitch’s Fitness Studio, and news of future openings of four others: Hegland Glass, the Schumann/Wilson gallery on Cannon Street, a new gallery this spring in 200 block of High Street, and a gluten free restaurant in the previous location of Brix, the Spy was curious to see how established  businesses fared this past year.  We took a random survey of  several shop and service oriented proprietors, and asked their forecast for 2013.

Bookplate’s Tom Martin had, “..a rocking fourth quarter.”  He is, “… investing in post- season improvements; adding more shelves to his back room, and traveling to Spain to buy more pottery and olive oil.”   Twigs and Teacups’ response, “ People are very happy that we are still open. We’re not going anywhere.”

A number of retail shop owners stated that  fourth quarter sales, and in particular December, were not as strong as expected. Bob Ramsey, owner of The Finishing Touch, said that he was “saved” by the last ten days prior to the holidays, but that in general, Christmas was, “off.” Mike Sipala, at the other end of High Street in Paul’s Shoe Store, agreed that the majority of his customers waited until the last minute to purchase gifts. “Last year was up from the prior year, not much, but a little, the first half was much better, ” he told the Spy, and added that he’d be, “..tickled if it was up as much in 2013 as in the previous year.”

Evergrain bakery’s Doug Rae, was very optimistic, saying that they had just celebrated their second anniversary in November, sales were definitely up and the third year should be, “..even better.” Rae mentioned that their lunch crowd was excellent, and that they were considering extending hours later into the evening , as there is a, “..rush at 4 pm until closing (at 5).”

Another relative newcomer to Chestertown‘s downtown, Lemon Leaf Café’s owner, JR Alfree, sent the following, “This is a dream come true for me, as the café celebrated its second year anniversary on October 21, 2012, “  He added that his business grew by over 18%, with significant increase in spring & summer; fall was consistent with 2011.

Around the corner on Cannon, Chestertown Natural Food’s Trish Gruber sent this encouraging email, “Thanks to the tremendous support of our customers, 2012 sales were up significantly over 2011, and we anticipate sales growth to continue in 2013.”

Bob Ortiz commented that downtown events had a positive effect on number of folks walking into his woodworking studio, and  that,
“ …my mailing list is growing, and that list drives interest and sales in the shop.”

The Spy also  reached out to two businesses at either end of  town. Brooks Tavern’s Barabara Silcox said that 2012 was a good year -gift certificates are always a bonus for December sales – and that goose hunters sustain them in January. Liz Starkey at Kingstown Farm and Garden Center said that she was feeling very positive about 2013. “The long spring [last year] helped to make March sales substantially better. The ‘grow your own’ movement is benefiting us,” Starkey told the Spy, adding that their pet section was doing really well, especially with the current emphasis on nutritional pet food.

The general consensus was one of optimism; shop owners confident that their regular customers will at least continue if not increase their spending habits, and that the additional art galleries and shops will bring new business. As one proprietor said, “2012 boded well for future discretionary spending.”

Maryland 3.0: Cassinelli Winery

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Jennifer and Al Cassinelli with tasting room guests.

Jennifer and Al Cassinelli with tasting room guests.

Those of us in Kent County and northern Queen Anne’s have probably driven by the Cassinelli Winery on route 213 just outside of Church Hill dozens of times without stopping, or realizing that along with their 13 acres of grapes, they have three acres of fruit trees, Wye Angus cows, buffaloes and two  burros.

Those grapes have produced seven award winning wines in the Maryland Governor‘s Cup competition, including a gold this year for their 2009 Merlot Reserve and two bronze medals for ‘09 Rose Barbera and Barbera Reserve.

The Spy dropped in for a visit on a recent weekend to chat with owners Al and Jennifer Cassinelli in their tasting room -actually, Al spoke with the Spy while  Jennifer poured wine and talked with customers.

Those cows and buffaloes are not there just to enhance the bucolic setting. They eat the grass as well as grape skins, bruised or otherwise unusable fruit, and fertilize the fields. Apples, peaches, plums, and Asian pears are offered for sale as ‘pick your own’ and at farmers’ markets.  

The winery also plans to offer brandy and grappa – style spirits made from their fruit this fall. Under the 2010 Maryland Winery Modernization Act, wineries may produce 1900 gallons of brandy and port- style wines annually. Their federal distiller’s license is in process and should be completed shortly, according to Al Cassinelli.

cassinelli_award winners

The conversation turned to the business of grape growing, wine producing and selling. Al’s day gig is in financial investing – he’s not quite ready to devote all his time to the winery. High school students prune, weed and position the shoots throughout the summer, with Al doing all the spraying – every ten days June through September. The number one enemy on our humid Eastern Shore  is mildew. Schmidt Vineyard Management handles  the heavy pruning and grape picking. Pruning occurs eight times a year, four minutes  if you’re speedy, to tuck the shoots and sucker each plant.  One of his consultants recommended planting in relatively short rows so pruners don’t face an endless vista of vines. Al estimated  370 hours  spent on each acre;  at 700 plants per acre, the cost is approximately $4,000 per acre just to tend the vines.

Harvesting was early this year – August and September vs late September.  The hot, dry weather produced  high quality grapes, but a low volume. 2010 was the reverse—too much wet weather means low quality but high yield. Kathryn, their wine consultant, arrives the first of March each year from France to taste and smell each one of the 30 barrels of wine. She’ll then separate them into three rows. The first is set aside for single varietals;  Chardonnay, Barbera, etc., the second for blends, and the third designated for the sweeter wines and distilled spirits.  The whites will be bottled in April, the reds at the end of October. Al prefers to have the wines, especially reds, sit in the bottle for at least 90 days prior to selling.

Plans are  underway for a new 10,000 square foot  ‘events’  building complete with  catering kitchen, courtyard, grass lawn and bride dressing room. The winery has hosted twenty plus weddings in the past few years; they turned down a number of requests due to lack of indoor space.  The Cassinellis envision holding a number of wine dinners in addition to renting the building  for private events.  Ground breaking is tentatively scheduled for this October.

Last year saw sales of 6,200 bottles, the goal is 10,000. About half of the wine is sold through their tasting room, 10 to 15% through retail shops, and 30% at festivals. Al expects an uptick in 2013 holiday season sales with the recent passage of the law allowing wineries to sell online. Business has definitely increased with the opening of Crow Winery (Kennedyville, Kent County) and Cascia Vineyards (Stevensville, QA County). The winery receives a number of  tourists following the Chesapeake Wine Trail, which runs through the Upper, Mid  and Lower Eastern Shore counties.

Al Cassinelli summed up the winery’s mission succinctly, “Our job is to grow great grapes and sell wine.”

Cassinelli Winery

 

 

Excellent News: Farmers’ Market to Continue

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colchester_stand_at Farmers_MktThe Spy received word late this afternoon  that the Chestertown farmers’ market will remain open this winter. Mayor Bailey told market manager Owen McCoy that as long as vendors set up on the sidewalk and street, and not on the grass, the town council will allow the market to stay in the Fountain Park location during the winter months.

McCoy had received offers to set the market up in other locations, but he and other producers preferred to stay in the center of downtown. He told the Spy that vendors will have no problem complying with the restrictions.

Good Omen for 2013: Four New Businesses Opening in Town

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musiclife_frontA welcome sign for  downtown Chestertown – not only did MusicLife open on High Street last week, but three other businesses will be opening early 2013.  Hegland Glass is renovating the space across the breezeway from RiverArts for their new studio,  and  Faith Wilson and Marilee Schumann are opening a gallery on 312 Cannon St., formerly the Chestertown Arts League. There is also action at 321 High Street. A fitness studio is moving in where the children’s store, Pride and Joy closed this summer.

MusicLife (previous location of  Dave Ferguson Oriental Rugs) offers lessons as well as  instruments, repairs and  musical supplies. Owner  Bill Drazga has taught music for over 20 years, and plays a number of instruments himself.

Eric Fitch, personal trainer and “boot camp” instructor told the Spy his fitness studio is  scheduled to open January 2. Fitch specializes in “functional training,” utilizing free weights and body training vs machines, although he will have two or three pieces of cardio equipment and a couple of strength training machines.  Open by appointment for personal training or during the  group fitness classes, Fitch initially will offer classes Monday through Friday: a 6am boot camp, and evening classes 5 pm – 7:30. He said there will probably be some Saturday classes as well. Class schedule and contact information is available at www.PhysicallyFitch.com

Eric_Fitch_bootcamp

Faith Wilson painted floor cloth.

Faith Wilson painted floor cloth.

Patti and Dave Hegland are  moving their  studio into town. The space, formerly occupied by Flow hair salon, will be divided into glass studio and display area. They plan to be open early next year.

The Cannon Street gallery (name to be decided shortly) will feature Schumann’s functional pottery and Wilson’s painted floor cloths.  Although their official opening is not until sometime in January, they will be open for business this Saturday, December 22 from 10 am to 4 pm, and invite the public to stop in.