New Real Estate Meetup Group Kicks Off September 26


A new “meetup” group, Eastern Shore Real Estate Meetup, will begin meetings on Saturday, September 26 at 10am at JR’s Pub/Lemon Leaf Café in Chestertown.

Open to everyone, the group will offer a community-oriented atmosphere where anyone interested can attend and learn about topics related to Eastern Shore real estate and potential investment opportunities.

“This meetup group is about connecting with members of the community and learning more about local real estate matters and opportunities,” says Andy Andrews, the group’s organizer, “we will be inviting both local leaders as well as experts from other areas to present on real estate topics and investment opportunities.”

A partial list of topics covered in the group’s meetings includes real estate investing, property management, green building, community issues, and trends of the local real estate market. Much of the group’s focus will be on creating opportunities to connect with others with similar interests and goals.

The group will meet the fourth Saturday of every month at JR’s Pub/Lemon Leaf Café at 10 am. Additional workshops and field excursions will occur at other locations as well.

Anyone interested in more information about the Eastern Shore Real Estate Meetup can learn more here.

Eastern Shore Real Estate Meetup – Upcoming Events

September 26, 10 AM – Kick Off Meeting! – Introduction to the Group, Networking, Setting the Agenda. Location: JR’s Pub/Lemon Leaf Cafe

October 24, 1030 AM – First Time Homebuyers Workshop – For anyone considering buying a home. Location: Kent County Visitors Center

October 31 – 10 AM – Wind Turbines: Impact on Our Community. Location: JR’s Pub/Lemon Leaf Cafe

November 21 – 10 AM – (TBA), Location: JR’s Pub/Lemon Leaf Cafe

December 20 – 10 AM – (TBA), Location: JR’s Pub/Lemon Leaf Cafe

Benchworks Promotes Sally Reed to Vice President


Benchworks is pleased to announce that Sally Reed has been promoted to the position of Vice President, Digital Services. In this position, Sally will be responsible for supervising all activities of the Digital Services team and working to expand digital offerings for Benchworks clients. This includes website development, videos, email marketing, and interactive banners.

Sally joined Benchworks in 2011 as Digital Director, managing a variety of projects including website development, digital advertising, and email marketing. Previously, she was employed with Cadient Interactive in Philadelphia where she managed a team of pharmaceutical marketing project managers.

Commenting on the promotion, Benchworks President Melissa Johnston said, “Sally’s experience, dedication, and positive attitude have helped expand our digital service offerings. She is a valued member of our leadership team and consistently provides strategic direction for Benchworks and its clients.”

Benchworks, a comprehensive marketing services firm headquartered in Chestertown, Maryland, was founded in 1991. The company specializes in the design, production, and launch of complete marketing and branding services. Clients include a wide variety of companies in the pharmaceutical, beverage, manufacturing, and education industries in North America and Europe. Additional Benchworks operating units include Safe Chain Solutions, a product launch center, Benchworks Consulting, and a licensed products division. For additional information, please visit or call 800-536-4670.

Chesapeake Bank and Trust and ICBA Encourage Consumers to Protect their Data


Americans live in a mobile society, relying on smartphones, tablets and computers to gather news, make purchases, interact with friends and family, and connect with financial institutions. Increasingly, cybercriminals compromise the networks that support these devices. This often results in identity theft, which can also yield financial losses and safety for consumers. In fact, a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found that computer hackers have stolen the personal information of approximately 40 million U.S. residents. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and the Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) and Chesapeake Bank and Trust are offering tips to help consumers avoid having their online financial information disrupted or stolen. ICBA and Chesapeake Bank and Trust offer the following tips to help consumers safeguard their online accounts:

• When sending sensitive information via the Internet, make sure “https:” appears in the address bar. This means the information you are transmitting is encrypted.

•  Ensure the wireless network you use is password-protected, and choose a strong password and update it frequently for your work and home wireless networks. Likewise, always use a passcode on your mobile phone or tablet to stop an unauthorized user from accessing your device.

• Don’t enter sensitive information into your phone when others can see what you’re entering.

• Set the privacy settings on frequented social network sites. Cybercriminals often learn about people and their families and friends via social media in an attempt to spoof or phish you and your network.

• Remain cautious of someone who isn’t who they say they are or if the name and area don’t match what appears on caller ID. This is often how spoofing occurs.

• Never respond to text messages, emails or phone calls from companies alleging to be your bank, government officials or business representatives that request your banking ID, account numbers, user name or password.

• Similarly, don’t click on links sent to you from unknown sources via text message because they are likely malware.

• Beware of “get rich quick” schemes; never voluntarily give out your bank account information or security credentials.

“Now more than ever consumers must remain alert to the possibility of their personal credit and financial security being compromised,” said Glenn L. Wilson, President & CEO of Chesapeake Bank and Trust. Chesapeake Bank and Trust and ICBA Encourage Consumers to Protect their Data during Cyber Security Awareness Month Media Contacts: Aleis Stokes 202-821-4457 @AleisStokes Chesapeake Bank and Trust 410-778-1600 “Community banks like Chesapeake Bank and Trust often serve as the first line of defense in ensuring their customers’ financial information is not being used improperly. These banks have established protocols to protect customers’ financial information from data breaches.” You can learn more about Cyber Security Awareness Month by visiting the Stay Safe Online website (

2012 Stats Show Maryland Taxpayer Loss and Kent County Gain


Meg Tully at MarylandPerorter writes, “Recently released data from the IRS shows that about 5,500 more taxpayers left Maryland in 2012 than moved to the state.

“Long-cited by tax critics as annual data that show the migration of taxpayers to lower-taxed states, some experts caution that not too much should be read into year-to-year changes.”

Continue reading here.

Holy Cow: Perdue Farms Buys California Foodie Favorite Niman Ranch


In what might be one of the most unusual corporate purchases of the year, the New York Times reported this morning that the Eastern Shore’s Perdue Farms has purchased the small, but very popular organic beef company, Niman Ranch. Niman, which produces only grass-fed beef and other meat products, has been a staple of California foodies for almost two decades.

Read the full story here.

Kent County Real Estate Outlook: Trending Up!


It’s always surprising for me to know that Kent County, at 19,800, is the smallest county in Maryland.

You wouldn’t know that from the number of press releases announcing activities and events received by the Spy on a daily basis. Kent is far from a static enclave of Agri-biz and retirement, and though it is challenged with employment limitations that discourage young career-oriented families, I wondered how the real estate market was responding to our national and local economy as it continues to inch its way out of the long recession. Are people staying put? Is anyone moving to Kent? Are we the last to experience the confidence that seems to be fueling the real estate market elsewhere?

Because Kent County is so geographically unique, and is not a bedroom hub for a major city, there are few measures we can use to compare Kent County real estate activity to other counties in Maryland. In fact, to lump them together with a bar-graph, would misrepresent the activity in our local market.

As one realtor said, “We’re never going to be as hot a market as exists in Annapolis or Montgomery County, and that’s a good thing. We’ve strived to protect our more relaxed lifestyle.”

Keep in mind that typical month-to-month inventories stay under 400 homes, with median sales prices of about $189,000 (according to Long and Foster analysis).

Also real estate companies, at least to the media, like to put their best foot forward, even in gloomy times. “Trending positive,” “a bright future,” and “it’s better than four years ago” are often euphemisms that echo out of their offices.

But I was hearing more than those lackluster phrases when I visited real estate office in Chestertown this week. There was something bright and shiny embedded in the conversations I had—relief from the economy that decimated much of the market from 2008-2013? Or more?

Liddy Campbell, an agent at Cross Street Realtors, remarked that there has been a strong and continuing flow of traffic visiting both the office and their online presence. And that has translated into sales.

Offered by Cross Street Realtors

Offered by Cross Street Realtors

“There has been a steady influx this summer, with sales for the $200-$500k properties doing well. In downtown Chestertown I’m seeing people making “upgrade” purchases and staying within the community, and I just sold a house to young couple which I find encouraging. Weekenders from DC and people looking for the right retirement spot are also finding our services,” she says.

“Mortgage loan rates are still low and that makes it attractive for people who want to move here or consider a second home,” she added.

Currently, rates are 3.89% for 30-Year and 3.08% for 15-Year loans. Although the rates have whipsawed in the last few weeks in light of the global Chinese stock market disruption, they remain lower than a year ago.

At Coldwell-Banker Chesapeake Real Estate, Mike Stanley, points to their company’s newly engineered online interface as helping to attract customers.

“The auto-response feature and our commitment to personally answer an inquiry within an hour has become a hallmark of our service,” he says. “That has translated into strong sales.”

Offered by Coldwell BankerChesapeake Real Estate Company

Offered by Coldwell BankerChesapeake Real Estate Company

The current eight-month period starting in January 2015 shows Coldwell Banker led the market share of listings and sales of residential real estate in Kent County.

Kent County real estate is the story of multiple markets. Outside of the lower and mid-range values, waterfront, residential with land, and historic homes their share of shoppers.

Nancy McGuire at Maryland Heritage Properties points out, shoppers for historic homes are outliers from the usual regional snapshot of home-buyer definitions. “They have different expectations, usually find us by referral or are even previous clients.”

Gettes-Piper House offered by Maryland Heritage Properties

Geddes-Piper House offered by Maryland Heritage Properties

McGuire notes that people come to Kent  County for its laid-back lifestyle and rare formula of river, college and historic district. “It’s phenomenal that we can have a county of only 18,000 and offer so much. From Rock Hall to Chestertown, through constant efforts like the Downtown Chestertown Initiative and the new Arts and Entertainment District status, and many others volunteer efforts, Kent County continues to attract.

Doug Ashley at Doug Ashley Realtors sees Kent County going in the right direction. “We had a great summer with most of our sales were for the less expensive properties (under 300k) purchased primarily by in-county residents.”

Ashley touches on a critical ingredient to defining the Kent real estate market. Employment. A quick search of “help wanted” for the county show less than five listings, two for UM Shore Regional Health and one for Verizon. Online employment sites are notoriously under utilized but it does serve as warning to young families who might consider relocating here.

Gerry Cataldo, an agent with Wyble Real Estate also sees the inability for the county to attract young professionals as a defining characteristic of the region. “At this point we’re characterized more by the second-home and retirement buyer,” he says.

Matt Hogan at Hogan’s Insurance and Real Estate considers the wide-angle

Offered by Hogan's Insurance and Real Estate

Offered by Hogan’s Insurance and Real Estate

perspective of the last 7-8 years. “The 2008 collapse lingered into 2013, there’s still a lot of inventory on the books, and not a lot of people are building houses in the county at this point. Still, things this year are up a few percentage points, but certainly not multiples of 10s,” he says.

While the recent market successes continue to trend positively, Kent’s micro-market—approximately 389 units available in July, according to a Long and Foster analysis—defies a simple snapshot of comparison with other areas of the Eastern Shore.

Geography, (the ‘one bridge too far’ theme) and slim employment opportunities, braided with the extraordinary lifestyle elements available to us (think Washington College and its almost daily lectures and events open to the public, the Chester River, The Chesapeake Bay, History, the Arts) it becomes impossible to come up with a well-defined composite of the real estate market.

But one thing’s for sure as we struggle to define it—it’s good, and holding. But that’s today in a financially volatile world.

Front image: Offered by Doug Ashley

Banking 101: Worton Gradeschoolers Visit Chesapeake Bank and Trust

Worton Elementary School summer program (13 students going into third grade) came to Chesapeake  Bank and Trust for a tour and to learn about the role of the bank on our community.
Senior Branch Manager Mary Clark and Meagan Symes began the tour by introducing themselves  and their job descriptions.
They toured the Board Room and listened to the history of the bank including the fact that it was built not too long after Lincoln’s presidency. The groups, split into two, were given the tour, along with talks about the bank’s function. Acting as tour guides, and mentors were:
 Rob Thompson (Vice President) spoke about lending and why people borrow money.
Kim Alvarez (CSR) and Holly Johnson (CSR) told them how to open accounts for new customers and withdraw/deposit money.
Rick Coffman (Board Member) explained how the bank earns money in interest from lending, and the role of board members.
Pat Stanley (CFO) described how her position required a lot of math and accounting skills.
Morgan Baker (Operations Manager) explained how her job is like being a detective, problem-solving when accounting issues need to be resolved.
Of course everyone wanted to the see the vault!
 When explaining the protocol for opening the safe, one student questioned, “there’s a code so the bandits don’t get in, right?”
 They were also shown safety deposit boxes and how they hold important belongings and documentation for our customers, and were excited about the original vault downstairs filled with antique ledgers.
Each of the students were  given activity books from the FDIC that had examples of banking terminology/education in the form of word hunts and puzzles. President Wilson introduced himself and explained his position —like a school principal!— and the importance of saving money. The even filled out a template of a withdrawal slip and they copied their name, signature, the date, $1 and went out to the CSR’s with their CBT gift wallet.
After they handed them their slip they received a Susan B. Anthony gold dollar. Exciting stuff for 3rd graders!
It was heard later that they treasured their coins and some kept them in their pocket every day that week. A beautiful hand-printed thank-you note now adorns the CBT lobby.
Thanks to Meagan Symes at CBT for the narrative and photos!

Benchworks Names Vujanic Executive Vice President


Benchworks is pleased to announce that Brenda Vujanic has been promoted to the position of Executive Vice President. She will be responsible for managing the corporate marketing and communication strategy, providing strategic guidance for key clients, and serving as an experienced resource for Benchworks’ expanding team as the marketing services firm continues to grow.

Brenda Vujanic

Brenda Vujanic

Brenda has extensive marketing experience and most recently served as a Vice President/Account Director at Benchworks. In that role, she implemented a variety of marketing initiatives for pharmaceutical clients including Noven and Otsuka. She has also served as an instrumental member of the Benchworks leadership team, providing insights and recommendations for process improvement and corporate growth.

Benchworks President Melissa Johnston said, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Brenda for more than 7 years. She provides exceptional strategic marketing guidance to clients and serves as a valued leader of the Benchworks team. Brenda works tirelessly to ensure that her clients and colleagues are achieving their goals. I’m honored to work with her and look forward to our continued collaboration in helping Benchworks achieve its objectives.”

Benchworks, a comprehensive marketing services firm headquartered in Chestertown, Maryland, was founded in 1991. The company specializes in the design, production, and launch of complete marketing and branding services. Clients include a wide variety of companies in the pharmaceutical, beverage, manufacturing, and education industries in North America and Europe. Additional Benchworks operating units include a product launch center, Benchworks Consulting, and a licensed products division. For additional information, please visit or call 800-536-4670.

Mid-Shore Community Foundation Elects Three New Directors


The Mid-Shore Community Foundation announces the election of three new directors that include Susan (Suze) Chaffinch, Kenneth (Ken) Kozel, and Richard Scobey.

“We are pleased to welcome Suze, Ken and Richard to our Board of Directors,” says Foundation Chairman, W. Moorhead Vermilye. “The new directors bring a wealth of experience and their collective knowledge will be an invaluable asset to the Foundation.”

President Buck Duncan and Suze Chaffinch

President Buck Duncan and Suze Chaffinch

Suze Chaffinch was born and raised on the Eastern Shore and has lived most of her life in Caroline County. Since her retirement from teaching, she has enjoyed her involvement with various volunteer organizations. She has been a volunteer with Rebuilding Together Caroline County, The Children’s Home Foundation, and has served as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Suze lives in Denton and is a member of Christ Episcopal Church.

Ken Kozel is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Shore Regional Health System. He is active in civic and community service. He has been a Board Member of the Maryland Association of Healthcare Executives and has served on the Council on Clinical and Quality Issues for the Maryland Hospital Association. Ken is a Maryland native and has two children.

Richard Scobey is the Deputy Director General of the Independent Evaluation Group at the World Bank. He currently serves on the Boards of the

Richard Scobey

Richard Scobey

Academy Art Museum, Pickering Creek Audubon Center, and Frederick Douglass Honor Society Scholarship Committee, and has been active with Building African American Minds, Chesapeake Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Save the Elephants in Kenya, and Alliance of Religions and Conservation in UK.

Effective July 1, 2015, the new directors will serve two-year terms and will serve on a variety of committees that include Investment, Grants and Scholarships.

The Mid-Shore Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity that is dedicated to serving the Mid-Shore Region. Together with its donors, the Foundation makes grants, awards scholarships and leads community efforts to improve the lives and opportunities of residents – both now and in the future. For more information, visit