Brothers Josh and Mathew Shockley grew up in a small town on the Eastern Shore called Snow Hill, Md. But a small-town upbringing doesn’t show in the appearance of the brothers. With a last name like Shockley, the image of a super hero comes to mind, which is appropriate, as these brothers are the creators and owners of PLB Comics, one of Maryland’s locally owned and managed comic book companies.
Support the Harriet Tubman Railroad 2013 Initiative Most people know that Harriet Tubman was a Maryland native. But did you know that there’s a state park being built in her honor, a multi-million-dollar initiative to highlight Tubman’s work and to bring recognition to the area that once was the Underground Railroad?
Celebrating 15 Years of Plunging for a Special Olympics
The dreary days of January might make you want to hibernate, there are plenty of restaurants on the Eastern Shore offering delicious food to keep you warm through spring.
Perhaps this news will perk you up from the winter doldrums: There will finally be a place to get fresh sushi in St. Michaels with the transformation of the St. Michael Perk Coffee House into a sushi bar, scheduled to open in March. The desire to open a sushi restaurant stemmed from the lack of similar eateries in St. Michaels, says owner Chris Agharabi, who also own Ava’s Pizzeria. “There’s nothing like that in St. Michaels, so we’re going to give that a try,” he says. Ava’s also already has an experienced sushi chef on staff, which made the decision easier. The restaurant will be casual and moderately priced. The menu will start small and focus on “good vegetarian options,” Agharabi says, with growth depending on what the market dictates.
If you’re looking for a new place to eat right now, though, try the Lemon Leaf Café in Chestertown. The restaurant, located at 117 S. Cross St., serves classic homemade Eastern Shore fare, says owner JR Alfree, such as chicken and dumplings, crabcakes, and homemade chicken or shrimp salad stuffed in puff pastry. The restaurant serves breakfast every day, and according to Alfree, everyone raves over what they calls a “Flannel Cake,” which is a cross between a crepe and a pancake and drizzled with apricot syrup. From Thursday through Saturday, the café is open for dinner until 8 p.m. (it closes at 3 p.m. other days). Alfree strongly suggests reservations for dinner because they are very busy and frequently sell out. Call 443-282-0004.
If you’re looking to take advantage of some winter specials during the months that tourism on the Shore is down, plan a visit to Sherwood’s Landing at the Inn at Perry Cabin. In celebration of oyster season, the restaurant offers an oyster special every Friday through the winter, where you can dine on oyster shooters, oyster po’boy sandwiches, oysters on the half shell, oyster stew, plus a different chef specialty every week. The oysters are paired with Pommery champagne for $12 a glass, a price that “is just ridiculous,” manager Ron Didner says. “Champagne goes wonderfully with oysters.” There’s also a pairing for Chablis for $10 a glass.
To finish things off on a sweet note, Two Tree Restaurant owner Dennis Hager wants to remind you that the restaurant is still serving its incredible desserts. Each dessert is made in-house with unexpected varieties such as persimmon pudding, which recently graced the menu. The Millington restaurant offers a Tuesday-night dessert special: buy two entrees and get dessert free.
Amanda Bramble’s early years gave no indication that she would one day own a successful seafood restaurant in Cambridge, a town she calls “the heart of Chesapeake country.” Bramble grew up on the banks of the Choptank River in a family of watermen. She admittedly hates to cook—a strange confession for a restaurant owner—and couldn’t wait to leave the Eastern Shore after finishing high school. And leave she did, attending college in southern Maryland and majoring in biology with a plan to enter the medical field. Bramble then bounced around the country, ending up in Florida until hurricanes forced her to return home. She never left again. “I fell back in love with my town, with my downtown, and unexpectedly found my next move in the last place I had thought to look,” she says. Bramble realized in her mid-20s that her real dream was to open a restaurant, one that would revitalize Cambridge’s community pride and teach tourists about crabbing, the Bay, and the people who work on its waters. Bramble did give nursing school a two-month tryout, but soon knew she had to find a way to make her restaurant dream a reality. However, the country’s crumbling economy during early 2009 wasn’t exactly conducive to opening Jimmie and Sook’s (named for the crabs on which Cambridge’s main industry was built. At the time, Bramble had no money and no business training. The community stepped in, answering her questions, building the bar, painting the walls, giving Bramble the support—and the money—she needed. “I should have had obstacles,” Bramble says. “I opened up the moment our economy crashed, and yet my community surrounded me and provided with a path.” These days, Jimmie & Sook’s fills up quickly for lunch on a weekday. By 12:30 p.m., there might be a wait for a table. In the center of it all, Bramble flits around—stirring a large stockpot of cream of crab soup, and then sitting down with a customer—who has likely become a friend—at a table in the center of the restaurant. Bramble might not be a cook, but she knows good food and good service, both key to making a restaurant successful. From here on out, Bramble is committed to repaying the community for everything they did for her. “I see the restaurant being a part of a revitalized downtown,” she says, “Full of rejuvenated energy that has already begun. I want Cambridge to succeed. I will do whatever I can to see that happen.”-Kelsey Collins
The daughter of retired U.S. diplomats, Jehanne Dubrow was born in Italy and grew up in Poland, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Belgium, and the United States. Ironically enough, it’s her husband, Jeremy Schaub, a lieutenant commander, who does all the traveling now. The couple met while in college at St. John’s, dated for a year and a half, broke up, and ended up marrying in 2005 after eight years of remaining in touch despite Schaub’s travels and Dubrow’s time spent earning her M.F.A. and Ph.D. In fact, their unconventional marriage is the topic of Dubrow’s latest collection of poetry, Stateside. In the poems, she likens herself to Penelope, wife of legendary military hero Odysseus, of Homeric fame. It’s no coincidence that the couple decided to name their dog Argos, after Odysseus’ faithful canine companion. While it might be assumed that her husband and dog serve as her muses, Dubrow disagrees. “I actually don’t believe in the concept of inspiration. I do believe in work that excites you.” Writing is not the only work that excites Dubrow, who serves on the Honor Board and teaches literature and creative writing at Washington College in Chestertown. Although she’s won numerous awards for her poetry, she isn’t satisfied. “I don’t yet feel like I’ve had any kind of national recognition, and I have big ambitions for myself.” In the next five years, she hopes to have at least one new poetry collection out, as well as a series of essays. Eventually, she’d like to explore travel writing. At the top of her list of places to visit is Krakow. “My dream is to live there, and practice my Polish, and eat plum cake,” she says with a smile.
- Emily Wilson
In the heart of the Eastern Shore, one woman is changing the lives of more than a hundred middle-school girls. At the end of next year, that number could rise to more than forty-six hundred. In the past two years alone, Elizabeth Devlin, resident of Oxford, has watched her PageTurners program, designed to supplement the reading and critical thinking skills of at-risk middle-school girls through reading-based discussions and activities, grow from a mere idea into ten full-fledged, active book clubs at six different middle schools throughout the Shore. Devlin, who grew up in Bethesda and earned her undergraduate degree from Davidson College, has always dedicated herself to serving the needs of others. While in college, she participated in a local tutoring program. When the time came for her students to read, “They would crawl under desks and tables,” she recalls. “It was just so eye-opening, because for me, reading as a kid had always been such fun.” Devlin went on to teach Language Arts for two years in inner-city Charlotte, through the Teach For America program, and then worked at a national nonprofit in inner-city Baltimore before starting PageTurners. What motivates her? “It’s really the kids, and the kids that I’ve known,” she says. “Even when I wasn’t getting paid, and even when I was working two jobs, [they are] definitely what kept me going.” Devlin’s goal is not just to improve reading and comprehension, but also to empower the girls, grades 6–8, “with a stronger sense of self, and a stronger sense of the future and what they can do with their lives.” Moving forward, Devlin hopes to elevate the program to the national level. “I think I’m in it for the long-haul,” she says.
- Emily Wilson
We often hear of personal success inspired by “aha” moments, but Jayme Ploff’s was more like “ahaaaaaa”—she sang her final note, and lengthy applause followed. When Ploff was in the sixth grade, she recruited two friends to sing a song with her—a capella!—in the school’s annual talent show. Her friends chickened out but she didn’t, and the rest is history. “The audience was so surprised, and impressed!” she enthuses. “I knew right then that I had to spend my life singing.” After studying jazz vocal performance at the University of Miami and earning her music degree, Ploff returned home to Maryland and settled on the Eastern Shore. Here, she has built a loyal fan base that’s eager to see her perform at such venues as Easton’s NightCat and Coffee East, and the Market Street Public House in Denton—whether it’s her solo acoustic folk and jazz show, or with the jazz group Minus One, or with 410 (pronounced “four ten”), the band she recently started. Speaking of which, Ploff says, “We all come from a jazz background and play a range of music, from blues to Pat Benatar to John Mayer to Gnarls Barkley–something for everyone!” Of course, proof of her potential is in the music—you simply must listen for yourself. Her original compositions include lilting acoustic rockers and introspective, piano-driven jazz ballads, and everything in between. Her voice has an enormous range, one that any American Idol hopeful would dream for; and she has guitar and piano chops, to boot! “Music is the greatest form of expression and is something that all people can relate to,” says Ploff. “I love being able to share my music with other people…[it’s] also incredibly cathartic.” Though her talent yet to be discovered by major record labels, her grass-roots following is thriving. Music on her Myspace artist page (Myspace.com/jaymeprocks) is approaching a thousand “listens” per track, and her live performances bring in growing crowds. “[The year] 2010 was such a wonderful year for me on all levels, and I want to spend 2011 keeping the momentum going,” she says. “I’ve written some great new songs and I’m planning to expand 410’s reach beyond the Eastern Shore—to Annapolis, Baltimore, D.C., and even down to the beaches.” Ploff, who has both Celiac and Lyme disease, says that her health has been her hardest challenge but adds that music is her “happy, fun time”—and it could very well become a full-time musical career. “I read somewhere that things turn out the best for the people who make the best of how things turn out,” she says. “That’s really how I try to live my life; something positive can always come out of something negative.”
- James Houck
“I’ve always enjoyed farming,” says Bob Miller, founder and owner of Nice Farms Creamery, located halfway between Denton and Federalsburg in Caroline County. “I’m proud of my family and our history as dairy farmers,” he adds.
Miller comes from a long line of dairy farmers, including his parents and grandparents. “Years ago, many people were farmers, and we’re starting to lose that tradition,” he explains. A majority of dairy farmers sell their products to larger creameries that market and distribute to the bigger grocery and supermarket chains, such as Land O’Lakes and Farmland. But Miller wanted to sell his dairy products directly to consumers, so in 2009 he founded Nice Farms Creamery and made his products available primarily at farmers’ markets and to local grocery stores.
The milk produced at Nice Farms Creamery is pasteurized immediately so it stays fresh longer than commercially processed milk, which typically sits for a couple of days before undergoing pasteurization. It’s also free of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), used by many dairies to increase milk production, and is not homogenized—like it was in the days when milk was delivered in glass bottles and the cream would rise to the top. The yogurt has no added sugar and is available in flavors like blueberry and peach, depending on the time of year.
“I don’t mind going against the grain when I take up a project,” says Miller, who served two combat tours in Iraq as a field artillery officer during the five years he served in the U.S. Army. “As a lieutenant and junior captain, I developed the leadership skills that have given me the confidence and the freedom to interpret things and make decisions.”
Assisted by his wife, Carol, and his younger brother, Miller works full-time at the creamery, where 60 dairy cows graze on the surrounding 201-acre farm owned by his parents. The dairy cattle—Holsteins, Holstein crosses, Jerseys, Dutch Belted, and Milking Shorthorns—spend approximately 21 hours a day, for nine months of the year, in the pasture, grazing primarily on grass and hay. The change of seasons results in a slightly different taste to the milk. Any milk that is not needed for the creamery is currently being sold to commercial creameries for processing. But in the future, as the business expands, Miller hopes to be able to use all of the milk produced on the farm—and he may even start making butter, as well.
“It’s sad how industrial agriculture is ruining our food,” Miller states. “I started the creamery because I wanted to save the farming way of life.” Well, his noble efforts have certainly gotten him off to a good start.
- Nadja Maril
“I call myself an operavangilist. I go around preaching the good word (about opera),” says Jennifer Fletcher, recently hired to be the first ever general manager of the Annapolis Opera Company. A former professional singer, Fletcher has always been passionate about opera. At the age of 10 she told her mother, an opera fan, that she wanted voice lessons because she was disappointed with being cast as a member of the chorus when auditioning for the school play, Oklahoma! The following year, she was given a lead role in Peter Pan. A mezzo soprano, Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from San Diego State and a Master of Music from New England Conservatory in vocal performance with an emphasis in stage direction.Not totally satisfied with a focus on performance, Jennifer began looking for different ways to support the art form. She became interested in the administrative side of opera production while working for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the marketing department and then being involved in a world premiere while working for the Fort Worth Opera as their company manager. “As company manager, I worked with all departments including production, development, marketing, finance, and education and outreach,” she says. “I had close working relationships with senior management and the board of trustees, which gave me insight into all the inner workings of how an opera company can run effectively,” says Fletcher. She is excited about her new job and the opportunity to utilize her previous experiences to introduce Annapolis to its professional opera company. Fletcher, who grew up in Southern California and who loves both football, jazz, and live concerts, is excited to be back on the East Coast and to live in Annapolis which is “such a culturally and historically rich city. The business of opera is very exciting for someone like me,” says Fletcher who is one of only 33 women general managers out of 135 Professional Company Members of Opera America, “Because I simply get to surround myselfwith creative people, music that transcends us all, and I get to impact the community by introducing them to an art form that is the ultimate performance art.”—Nadja Maril