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What's Up Magazine

Good Morning Annapolis

Mar 11, 2013 07:51PM ● By Anonymous

As the sun rises over the Annapolis Harbor, the town wakes up to the smell of coffee brewing and the sound of delivery trucks idling. Long before much of the town has stirred, the streets of downtown Annapolis churn with activity.

There are the joggers, dog walkers, sailors, and coffee sippers, all moving among the food and beer deliverymen, the street sweepers, and the garbage detail. George Butler, the ever-friendly crossing guard at the foot of Main Street, smiles and waves to the morning crowd. The Homestead Gardens crew waters the hanging flower baskets, while the shopkeepers have their morning duties, straightening tables, sweeping walks, and hanging banners. The early risers repeat these rituals bright and early every weekday morning.

Marine insurance broker Barron Martin has lived in Murray Hill and worked in the historic district for 25 years. “I’m up by 5:30 every morning and out the door for a walk to the Hard Bean coffee shop. It is a great time of the day. I get a chance to plan my day and come up with some fresh ideas. This is a great town for a morning person.”

State Senator John Astle holds court most mornings at City Dock Coffee, where his loyal following collects in the corner booth under a sign “Senator John Astle’s Down the Hill Office.” A resident of nearby Fleet Street for more than 40 years, the Senator says, “In the old days, not much happened downtown in the morning except maybe a few people fishing or crabbing. Now downtown is the center of activity with the boats, runners, and dog walkers.” He adds, “The folks downtown in the morning are all locals, and the coffee group is a good way to keep my finger on the pulse.”

Martin observes, “Every morning you see the same people jog by, the newspaper woman in her pickup truck, the men preparing St. Anne’s Church, and the older man outside the courthouse picking up newspapers.” As he heads to his office on Duke of Gloucester, Barron sees “bikers, joggers, and the boot camp people carrying bowling balls as they jog up Main Street.” He adds, “When I do happen to change my timing by 10 minutes, there is a whole new group of people and different activities.”

Retiree Stanley Mathey works for the Annapolis Harbormaster and lives on his Morgan 38 sailboat Corsair in Spa Creek. Stanley is up early, cheerfully patrolling the harbor, collecting mooring fees, and managing the slips along Ego Alley. As an operator of the Harbormaster’s pump-out boat, he jokes that he is “the number one man for the number two job.”

Every morning, the transient boaters moored in the harbor dinghy into town and tie up at the head of Ego Alley for coffee and breakfast. Joanne and Clarke Reid hail from Pennsylvania and cruise to Annapolis from their boat slip in Rock Hall. Their day in Annapolis starts with walking the Naval Academy grounds with their dog Gandy, followed by breakfast at City Dock Coffee.

By all accounts, the coffee shops are the key morning gathering places downtown. City Dock Coffee manager Kat Roberts sees the same faces daily in her shop. “A medium coffee and a blueberry scone? Sure, I can get that for you!” she says with a huge smile. “The regulars come in to talk. We make their days—that is why we’re here. We know exactly what they eat and drink because they have the same thing every day.”

Amy Jones and her baby son Jamison are Starbucks fans. Amy walks downtown with Jamison from her home in Eastport each day for her morning coffee, and she eagerly awaits the new My Favorite Muffin franchise opening on Main Street. Paul and Marylu Evans are Starbucks aficionados, as well—their dogs Lucas and Jett head downtown with them from their Eastport home every morning. “Lucas insists on the lemon bread at Starbucks,” Marylu says with a smile.

Smiles are seen on every face on a sunny morning downtown. Jim Silwick smiles as he empties the trash cans at the corner of Main and Market Space for the City Public Works Department. Rory Snyder also smiles as he rolls cases of beer into downtown establishments, a job he has had with Buck Distributing Company for sixteen years. And Robby Rose smiles as he hangs Annapolis T-shirts outside at Naptown Clothing Company, inviting Naval Academy families and tourists in to browse.

A block up Randall Street toward Gate 1, Danie Connolly’s whimsically colorful Sugar Buns in the Kitchen serves breakfast and lunch. Surrounded by hyper-pink cupcakes, Danie keeps a charity piggy bank and adds a nickel each time a customer says, “I’ve walked by forever and always wanted to come in.” She welcomes them in for her signature sugar buns, and doesn’t mind their children and canine friends. She adds, “This is a dog town. We keep water bowls outside for the dogs, and they visit our dog garden or lie down out front to wait for their owners.”

Sometimes it is the children who wake up with the sun and bring their parents downtown early. Shannon Fairbanks of Arnold visits City Dock to see the ducks and boats many mornings when preschoolers Isaac and Avery wake early.

Matt Heist likes to take his sons Adam and Liam downtown to watch the ducks, kayakers, and stand-up paddle boaters in Ego Alley. “On a weekday morning, I see professionals getting their morning coffee, sanitation workers cleaning up the bar scene from the night before, people walking their dogs, bikers, and boaters waking up from sleeping on their yachts.” When Matt isn’t busy teaching music at Broadneck High School, he loves joining his friends for “a morning run through the Naval Academy and the after-running coffee and socializing.”

The runners start very early, with the first group hitting the streets together at 4:45 a.m. “There’s nothing like a morning run through the Naval Academy,” says 4:45 runner Ginny Bell of Arnold. Her friend, Eric Fromm of Epping Forest, a marathon runner since the 1980s, was a regular with the 4:45 group until a knee injury benched him. He still rides his bike and walks downtown every day, always enjoying “bumping into friends and figuring out solutions to the world’s problems” over a cup of coffee.

Attorney Gil Cochran is a founding leader of the 6:06 Running Group. He and other downtown residents began meeting daily in 1977 for 6:00 a.m. weekday runs through the Naval Academy and Annapolis. The starting time moved to 6:06 when a six-minute grace period was added for late sleepers. “It’s fun when you get to know the newspaper lady, the trash guys, the meter maid—everybody has their place in the morning. It’s fun to watch the city come alive. At 5:30 it’s still asleep, by 6:00 it’s starting to come together, by 7:00 it’s starting to bustle.”

Hannah Powers, a lobbyist with the State Circle firm Alexander & Cleaver, gets her “girl time” with her friends, running a four to six mile loop around 6:00 a.m. “There is something pleasant about being downtown when the streets are quiet and seeing folks you know who haven't officially started their day. My friends and I hang out at the coffee shop after our workout. The early morning hours make the town a real community.”

Murray Hill resident Jennifer Kulynych is downtown most mornings running five to nine miles through Murray Hill, Eastport, and West Annapolis. She sometimes runs with the 6:06 group, but many mornings, she needs to run even earlier—before getting the kids off to school and heading to work as senior counsel at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital. For Jennifer, “the availability of sidewalks and street lighting, along with beautiful views that include sunrise over the Spa Creek Bridge, make running downtown easy.” She adds, “I am an old house nut, so as I run, I catalogue the renovations under way throughout town. The best part is stopping for coffee afterward, and being close enough to walk home.”

Not everyone runs through town in the morning. At the far end of City Dock, Jan Grave’s sunrise yoga is a favorite for Marie Friedland, catering manager at Chevy’s Fresh Mex. Marie is a marathon runner, but sunrise yoga has been a summer ritual for her for 13 years. “Watching the city wake up while catching some amazing sunrises is good for the body and the soul. I listen to the sounds get louder as the yoga class progresses—first there are only the sounds of birds and water moving, then the garbage trucks, then the 6:06 running group moving past us, then the plebes chanting as they run through the Academy, then the boats leaving the dock. The experience is so worth getting up for!”

Connie Del Signore, President of the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau, is a professional spokesperson for Annapolis, but her personal love of the city is clear. “If you live in Annapolis, early morning is almost spiritual, private. A group of women is performing yoga at City Dock; friends meet for coffee and share the latest gossip or laugh at off- color jokes shared; we wave to the crossing guard who knows us from our daily treks into the city.” Sometimes Connie sits in Senator Astle’s corner at the coffee shop, where she has learned that, “Mornings in Annapolis are all about solving the world’s problems. Retired Navy admirals, state senators, schoolteachers, funeral directors, tourism directors, and on and on… I love this town.”

If you’re not in the city early in the morning, you might be missing something. So tomorrow morning, set your alarm clock, hop out of bed, and head downtown—there’s a whole world of activity waiting. The folks who are downtown every morning know what keeps this city ticking.

The author writes from her home on Whitehall Bay’s Mill Creek and enjoys going downtown by boat for breakfast