Another Kind of Financial Crisis: Junior Achievement Combats Shore Student Financial Illiteracy

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Little did Junior Achievement know when it started nearly one hundred years ago that the financial education organization would be as timely in 2018 as it was when founded in 1919. J.A., as it’s known to millions of students and volunteers, continues a tradition of engaging young people in the fundamental basics of work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship at a time when those skill sets are in extremely high demand.

It should be a relief to many on the Mid-Shore that the J.A. has played an educational leadership role in the school districts of Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot County for decades now, as close to 450 volunteers descend on Eastern Shore public schools each year to teach its students such essential life skills as opening a bank account, balancing a checkbook, applying for loans, the dangers of credit card debt,  the importance of savings, or understanding what stocks and bonds are.

With the internet and smartphones now allowing a new generation to simply push a button or scan a thumbprint to almost instantaneously bring anything to one’s door, children of all ages are faced with unprecedented consumer choices, dishonest lenders, and scam artists as they plot their way into adulthood.

Given this under the radar crisis, the Spy sat down with Jayme Hayes, Jim Malena, and Talli Oxnam, three local leaders of Junior Achievement, to catch up on these very real challenges facing the youth in our community and what J.A. is doing locally to address them.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information on Junior Achievement on the Eastern Shore please go here.

Mid-Shore Careers: Mental Health Careers Found at Channel Marker

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While the demand on the Mid-Shore to fill skilled job openings has never been higher, especially in such fields as cyber-security, healthcare, or a range of traditional trades from welding to culinary management, it was interesting for the Spy to note that there are still career openings for what is known as generalists. These well-educated, “jacks of all trades, masters of none” young people have demonstrated their ability to achieve in their coursework in education, but sometimes not with a clear vocation in mind when it’s completed.

But one option open to many that fall into this category is in the growing field of mental health, and that is indeed the case with Channel Marker, Inc. which serves the Mid-Shore region helping those suffering from a variety of these conditions.

The Spy sat down with two of Channel Marker’s staff who have found themselves in a profession they have not only grown to love but offers significant opportunities for career advancement. Heather Chance, a residential coordinator with the organization, and Kelly Holden, its HR and training director, to talk about their rewarding careers helping those with these afflictions navigate back into being productive citizens in the community, their professional growth, and the opportunities that await other to follow in their footsteps.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Channel Marker and review the list of job openings go here

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Mid-Shore Commerce: Engineer and Developer Bob Rauch on Almost Everything

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It is pretty rare for a Spy interview to stray too far from a specific topic but that was virtually impossible when we talked to Bob Rauch the other day.

While our intention was to have a short chat about Bob’s engineering firm at their new office on Harrison Street, it didn’t stop there. In fact, it covered an almost endless range of subjects, including his roots in Talbot County, a passion for sound and creative design, his investment in developing long-term careers for young professionals on the Mid-Shore, the challenges and benefits of working in a rural environment with a family business, his ties to the Easton Club, his plans for housing in Trappe, a “tiny house development” in Federalsburg,  revolutionary chicken waste management projects in Princess Anne’s, and, oh yes, the likelihood of working on two new projects with Tesla in Nevada.

In short, it was impossible for the Spy to edit this conversation to any significant degree since almost everything Bob said, and how he said it, was too rich and enjoyable to cut.  Instead, we offer this extended interview which gives our readers a unique opportunity to hear from one of the Eastern Shore’s great entrepreneurs but also from one of its finest people.

This video is approximately seventeen minutes in length. For more information about RAUCH, Inc. please go here

Inaugural SED Talks: Shore Economic Development Conference

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SVN Miller, KRM Development, and Bob Rauch, RAUCH inc. are pleased to announce the inaugural SED Talks – Shore Economic Development conference to be headlined by Secretary Mike Gill, Maryland Department of Commerce, during Maryland Economic Development Week. The event will be held at Chesapeake College Todd Performing Arts Center on Friday, October 26th. Continental Breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. with the program to follow at 9-11:30 a.m.

SED Talks will focus on economic development on the Eastern Shore and will feature interesting, dynamic speakers offering insights, trends, success stories and business strategies in “TED” Talks style format. Speakers and topics include: Secretary Mike Gill, Growing Maryland’s Economy; Ken Kozel, President & CEO, UMD Shore Regional Health, New Regional Health Care Facility Impacts; Chad Nagel, Nagel Farm Service, Agricultural Sector Impacts; Brett Summers, NOVO Development Corporation, Cambridge Success Stories; Sam Shog, Talbot County Economic Development, The Millennial Influence; Robert Caret, Chancellor, University System of Maryland, Higher Education Impacts on the Local Economy; and Bob Greenlee, SVN, Miller, The Chesapeake Triangle.

The public is invited and there is no cost for the event. Attendees are encouraged to invite colleagues, clients or others who may be interested. Please RSVP to Liz Connelly at Rauch Engineering, 410-770-9081 or liz@raucheng.com.

Facade Improvements Pay Off in Downtown

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The Main Street Chestertown facade improvement program issued its first reimbursement checks to two grantees. At 314 Park Row, the new offices of TL Rentals and Taylor Loughry Construction and home to the Blackbird Boutique, Bobby Loughry and Justin Taylor received a check for $10,800 from Main Street president Paul Heckles and program manager Kay MacIntosh. A few blocks away, another check was issued to Joe and Marianne Hickman of 238 Cannon LLC, owners of the Cross Street Realtors building. They were reimbursed for new awnings. The facade program pays 60 percent of the costs of a pre-approved facade improvements for commercial properties in the Historic District.

To apply visit mainstreetchestertown.org or call 410-778-2991.

Mimi’s Closet Celebrates 10 Years in Chestertown

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Mimi’s Closet at 304 High Street, Chestertown, MD – Photo by Peter Heck

Mimi’s Closet celebrates its 10th anniversary from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 10, with an open reception at the High Street store. Owner Marjorie Adams said the event will also be a benefit for Breast Cancer month, with pink wine, pink ice cream, and a pink bath bomb with a surprise inside. And there will be music and oysters. “This will be a thank-you to all our friends and customers for patronizing our store and supporting my business through ten long, arduous years at three locations,” she said with a laugh. “This one’s the charm, though.”

Margery Adams, better known as Mimi to the granddaughter who gave her the nickname and to her loyal customers at Mimi’s Closet.

Admas grew up in New York and Connecticut.  She graduated with a specialty in fabric design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, the premier college in the field.  One of her early–and most fun–jobs, she said, was decorating the windows at Macy’s Department Store in New York City.  Over her career, she has also been the marketing director for a Baltimore firm and the American representative for Ehrman’s Tapestry as well as owning a retail store in Easton for several years.

She is married to Walter Adams and they have two sons and four grandchildren. They fell in love with Chestertown after visiting for an anniversary.  They bought a second home locally in 1998 and moved here full-time in 2001.

Adams said, “I started my business in the worst year possible – 2008 – as a popup store which maybe should have been in existence only six weeks, and now has turned out to be ten years.”

But our store has changed considerably – not only the location but what we carry, because we’re a small town and we try to address every price point and every type of customer – every age group, every body type. We specialize in women’s clothing and accessories – we don’t do children or men. We have a small area where we sell shoes. It’s just sort of an all-around boutique – jewelry, handbags and shoes, dresses – and we try to change things up so often that you’re seeing something new every time you come in here.”

We try to be sensitive to everybody’s budget,” she said. “We encourage our customers to come in, even with something they own and have it updated or made to look better.” She added that this isn’t a question of alterations, but of finding ways to accessorize or complement it to give it a more contemporary look. She said she likes to offer things from small boutique designers that you might not find in online venues or department stores. And she offers a lot from American designers. Also, she tries not to duplicate lines available in other stores in town. “We try to be very sensitive to that – it’s a small universe here for shoppers.”

Smart fall outfits with a wealth of hats and other accessories are displayed against a colorful wall hanging on the brick wall in Mimi’s Closet, 304 High St., Chestertown, MD  –  Photo by Jane Jewell

She also buys small quantities, she said – “We try to buy one size run, so you don’t see yourself coming and going. If you’re going to a special event, you want to have something that’s unique and different.” She said she regularly goes to Fashion Week in New York and other industry shows to find new lines and distinctive items for the shore.

Adams’ first store in Chestertown was in a small space adjacent to the Imperial Hotel. She said in an email forwarded to the Spy by Kay MacIntosh of Main Street Chestertown, that she stayed there “until the building repairs and food odors from the hotel prep kitchen made me crazy! I moved to a very nice space on Cannon Street and thought that customers would follow. I was wrong! The building was the former home of the Chester River Knitting Company and was a great space but did not have display windows to showcase my inventory, and too many people thought that the shopping area ended on Cross Street and they did not venture further.” She added, “It did not help that we were in a recession.”

When the High Street space formerly occupied by Scottie’s Shoe Store became available, she recognized it as the opportunity she had been looking for – a prime space on the town’s main shopping street. She said, “Renovation to this space—the old Scottie’s space — was critical; nothing had been done to improve it for many years. The building owner, Bob Ramsey, was committed to a full renovation and hired my husband to do the work. We moved into the new space and it was as if I had just started a brand new business.” Its success allowed her to close a store in Easton and concentrate on Chestertown.

Debbie Yoder, an assistant at Mimi’s Closet, displays a beautiful brown suede jacket just in for the fall season. – Photo by Jane Jewell

As you can see, this was quite a journey over the past ten years,” she said. “I have had to adjust to the fact that we are not a major metropolitan shopping area but are a small and very special destination. The key was to have both a local and visitor customer base that would show up more often looking for a unique experience. I focus on lots of personal interaction that makes the customer know that their business is valued.”

The name of the store comes from Adams’ granddaughter, now 18 years old, who, as a small child, nicknamed her “Mimi.”  Now everyone knows her as Mimi!

Adams, whose background is in textiles, said she is very aware of the quality of the fabric used in the merchandise she sells, as well as the quality of construction and the fit. “I don’t think it’s necessary always to go to the top price point, but you’ve got to find the quality in the fabric and the way a garment is made and the way it fits.”

Colorful, classic kimonos are available as well as sporty, outdoors styles. — Photo by Jane Jewell

MacIntosh said of Adams, “She gets involved in community causes and events.  She has held fashion show fundraisers for the College’s Women’s League, the Soroptimists, and breast cancer research. She organizes and runs the wildly popular teas during the HP Fest and has helped in other areas such as sponsorships. She organizes and runs the High Tea for the Dickens Weekend. She is active in the Downtown Chestertown Association, which she now serves as VP.”

Whether you’re a regular customer or visiting the store for the first time, come by Mimi’s Closet at 307 High St. Wednesday, Oct 10, from 6-8 pm and help celebrate a successful downtown Chestertown business.

And be sure to check out her webpage and FaceBook.   Send an email to mimiscloset@atlanticbb.net to join the Mimi’s Closet mailing list or just to ask a question.  The phone number is 443-282-0225.

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Maryland 3.0: Sprout Moves to the City

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The Spy has been watching, documenting, and eating Sprout food almost for two years now. Almost from the moment Emily and Ryan Groll started cooking in their trailer kitchen just outside of Trappe and home delivering local food freshly prepared to Talbot County, we knew this was one of the startups on the Eastern Shore worth watching.

And they have not disappointed. Since those early days,  the Grolls have taken seriously their mission to give their customers a convenient way to buy and eat healthy, locally-sourced meals. After locking in almost 400 clients on the Mid-Shore for home delivery, Sprout quickly invented the concept of Spoutletts; small, self-contained pickup stations at wine stores, office buildings, and gyms where those not able to use home delivery can pick up their meals using the honor system when it fits their schedule.

Now, Sprout has moved into a new flagship store and kitchen on Aurora Street in Easton for an entirely new phase of their business plan. Open every day, with new offerings like homemade bread, a creative partnership with Night Kitchen Coffee from Denton, and simple “grab and go” floor plan, Sprout is now taking another innovative step in this remarkable home-grown business.

The Spy chatted with Ryan last week about Sprout’s new home.

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

WC and Dixon Valve Send Furniture to Veterans in Need

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Washington College has teamed up with Dixon Valve and Coupling to donate 44 bedroom sets—bed, chest of drawers, chair, and desk—to help military veterans transition from homelessness into new housing. The furniture, which in mid-July moved from the campus to the Veterans Multi-Service Center Thrift Store in Philadelphia thanks to a donated tractor-trailer from Dixon Valve, will be used for the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.

“This is sustainability as it’s supposed to be: a triple-bottom-line project that simultaneously addresses environmental, social-justice, and financial outcomes,” says Greg Farley, the College’s director of sustainability, who helped organize the donation. “We’re reducing waste and stress on landfills, providing a benefit to a population in need, which has, itself, directly served our nation, and helping reduce our costs and costs to the federal government for veterans’ support. I also love the fact that it’s a joint effort between the College and Dixon Valve, a community partner with a long history of cooperation with Washington College.”

Farley credits the impetus for the donation to Lea Carter, auxiliary services leader in the College’s Office of Buildings and Grounds, who has been successfully working with local businesses and non-profits to manage similar donations for several years. Carter says that the College has donated blankets and linens from summer conferences and camps to organizations including the Salvation Army, local homeless shelters, the Kent County Human Society, and the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington. Furniture being cycled out of residential halls has gone to Serenity Place in Dover and Future Focus Recovery House for Women in Cambridge, among other area organizations that help people emerging from alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, and other difficulties.

Photo: (L to R) Bryan Matthews and Buddy Hitchens of Dixon Valve, and Lea Carter, Antone Black, and Jeff Mullikinof WC Buildings and Grounds, helped organize and make the furniture donation. Not pictured who helped in the move are Greg Farley and Logan Fracassi of WC and Calvin Shelter and Jeff Conner of Dixon Valve.

“Last year, Bob Greenwald from East Coast Storage donated a truck, fuel, and drove 27 sets of furniture to The Home of the Brave in Milford,” Carter says. The Delaware facility helps veterans in transition find housing, food, stability, and support. “It’s a collaborative effort of different people here in Chestertown, and employees here from the College who are making it happen.”

Farley says that this year, with such a large quantity of furniture, he contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs to see where there was a need. According to Rosemarie McGee, program manager at the Veterans Multi-Service Center (VMC) Thrift Store in Philadelphia, the furniture will be stored there until it is needed by the HUD-VASH program to help furnish a new home for a veteran. According to the HUD website, the HUD-VASH program combines rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VMC Thrift Store itself is a jobs program to help transitional veterans move to permanent, full-time positions, McGee says.

“While training at the VMC they help other transitional veterans move to their new homes and/or deliver their furniture from the Thrift Store,” she says. “Trainees are responsible for picking up, processing, displaying, then delivering furniture, household items, and linens. We have a very good success rate with our program, with 83 percent moving on to better positions.”

The bedroom sets came from the Cecil and Dorchester residential buildings—part of what’s known as the Quad buildings—which will receive newer furniture from the Cullen building, which comprises Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset. The Cullen building is undergoing a yearlong renovation, and it will get new furniture as part of that project, Farley says.

The collaboration with Dixon Valve helped reduce shipping costs, Farley says, while recycling the furniture itself—rather than simply taking it to a dump—saved the College at least $2,300 in hauling fees. This latest donation comes on the heels of a donation in early July of four bedroom sets to the New Life Recovery House in Kingstown, which was furnishing a new home for people who were overcoming addiction.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Easton’s Qlarant Named a Top Predictive Analytics Solution Provider

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Easton’s Qlarant, a nationally recognized program integrity and quality company, has been named a Top Ten predictive analytics solution provider for 2018.  CIO Applications Magazine interviewed 3 executives from Qlarant:  Dr. Ron Forsythe, Jr. CEO; Sandy Love, President; and Holly Pu, VP of Product Development.   The article provides insight into the culture of Qlarant, and highlights the predictive modeling capabilities the company provides to some of the nation’s most important organizations.

“Receiving this award is so gratifying,” said Holly Pu, VP of Product Development for Qlarant. “Predictive Analytics provide an important role in fighting fraud and saves the nation millions of dollars each year. Being recognized as one of the best in the industry means we did what we set out to do. “

CIO Applications magazine provides a network for CIOs to discuss their innovative enterprise solutions.  It also enables IT Vendors to learn about trending technologies, news and solutions that can help to grow their business.  Qlarant’s PLATO™ program is a powerful self-learning analytics engine that is able to sift through billions of pieces of data to detect aberrant trends.   Qlarant also offers RIViR, which provides risk identification, risk visualization and risk resolution services.

“We’ve known that we have the best people and solutions to provide the best results for our customers and this award demonstrates those facets of our business,” said Ron Forsythe, Qlarant CEO.