High school dances were fun, but I think the most memorable dances (besides prom or ring dance) happened in middle school. In the weeks leading up to a dance, my friends and I discussed our current crushes, went shopping for new dresses and spent hours talking and Instant Messaging each other about our plans for the big night.
And, of course, there was the music.
Matt and my middle school years were filled with some awesome (and some pretty hilariously awful) songs. Over the summer, when we first discussed co-hosting a show, we decided we had to have a middle school dance theme episode.
Here’s our playlist from the show:
1. Umbrella — Rihanna, Jay-Z
2. SexyBack — Justin Timberlake
3. One, Two Step — Ciara, Missy Elliott
4. London Bridge (clean, because why would our Catholic middle schools play the dirty version of a song) — Fergie
5. Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’) — T-Pain, Yung Doc
6. Hot N Cold — Katy Perry
7. Hey There Delilah — Plain White T’s
8. Crank That (Soulja Boy) — Soulja Boy
9. Lollipop — Lil Wayne
10. Every Time We Touch — Cascada
11. Yeah! — Usher, Lil Jon, Ludacris
12. Forever — Chris Brown
13. Chasing Cars — Snow Patrol
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 Originally posted on thedailyrecord.com
It started with a pale ale.
While attending college in Canada, Ian Hummel began home brewing as a way to release creative energy. He spent the next four years experimenting with recipes — some results better than others — and getting feedback from his friends.
Now a certified brewmaster, Hummel and his father, Harry Hummel, plan to open a Mount Vernon brewpub in October. Brew House No. 16, located in a former fire station near Center Stage, received unanimous approval from the city’s liquor board earlier this month.
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Monday, Aug. 1, 2014 Originally published on thedailyrecord.com
At a time when entry-level employees can connect with top executives online, private business and dining clubs are fighting to remain a relevant option for business networking opportunities.
From new membership discounts to facility renovations and menu upgrades, these clubs have been actively targeting the young professional community to reinvigorate interest in this decades-old business tradition. So far, the effort appears to be paying off, and local clubs say membership has rebounded after they began focusing on the under-40 crowd.
“We are probably stronger than we’ve been in many years financially, and our membership is near an all-time high,” said David Nevins, president of the Center Club’s board of governors. Nevins said the downtown Baltimore club has about 2,000 members, compared to about 1,400 during the depths of the 2008 recession and 2,200 more than a decade ago.
At the Tower Club Tysons Corner in Vienna, Virginia, membership is surging after a period of ebbs and flows, general manager Kara Carmichael said. The City Club of Washington did not disclose any figures, but manager Tom Bannwart said “a lot of young, executive-type” people were joining.
The key to building and maintaining membership, managers found, is to adapt with the evolving culture of the local business community.
“In the old days, we were more of a two-martini lunch,” Bannwart said. “Now, we’re more of a working business club where people come to conduct business.”
About 50 years ago, many of Baltimore’s top business and civic leaders already knew each other and looked for a place where they could discuss ventures over lunch, Nevins said. Now, workers can engage with each other on social media, but some club members say this online networking won’t replace the need for in-person communication.
“A lot of members are in influential positions, and it’s likely that they don’t have LinkedIn or Facebook. If they do, they’re not checking it,” said Thomasina Poirot, a member of the Center Club. “It’s not a substitute for meeting them in person.”
In recent years, clubs have increased the number of network-building and social events for current members. And to entice younger, often digitally-minded members, clubs made a few modifications: The Center Club completed a $2.7 million facelift in 2009, and the Tower Club will begin a $2 million technology renovation in September. And clubs are relaxing their dress codes and diversifying their menus.
“We have to be creative on a weekly basis,” said Kevin Bonner, general manager of the Center Club. “Dining has become more casual over the years. We’re evolving as dining evolves.”
The under-40 crowd is the fastest growing demographic at the Tower Club, general manager Kara Carmichael said. Members under age 40 make up 12 percent of the Center Club’s membership, compared to about 6 percent in 2009, said John Pastalow, chair of the club’s Young Members Committee.
At the City Club, Bannwart said young entrepreneurs have turned the club into an incubator for startups. They often use the facility as an office during the day, take a break for breakfast or lunch, and attend social events at night.
“So many innovative people run their offices off their laptops,” Bonner said. “We want to have a place that’s a backdrop for their office, so to speak, and to meet and connect with like-minded people that they eventually could be doing business with.”
While a place for business and socializing might sound enticing, Poirot said some of her peers have expressed negative perceptions of private dining clubs.
“A lot of people might think it’s a stuffy older club that has no place for younger people,” Poirot said. “It’s an interesting experience when you take someone who has a prior perception.”
Pastalow discovered the Center Club in 2005 and found it to be a step up from the city night life surrounding him. Since joining, he has dined with CEOs of hospitals and nonprofits.
“I have some friends out there who are still into Federal Hill bar-hopping,” Pastalow said. “I don’t want to do that anymore. That’s not where my career is. I want to be with people who get it.”
Nationally, private clubs of different types and in various regions still feel the effects from the latest recession. A report from the National Club Association estimates that about 10 percent of the 4,000 clubs in the U.S. will close by 2020. And as the dining scene continues expanding, local clubs feel the pressure to compete with neighboring restaurants and banquet halls.
In Washington, competition from restaurants and other private clubs surrounds the City Club “on all four sides,” Bannwart said.
“We compete with restaurants, but we’re not a restaurant,” Bannwart said. “We have members here, not customers. We want to take the time to learn our members’ wants and needs, to know your favorite food and drink.”
The Tower Club, meanwhile, has partnered with nearby restaurants for certain events, Carmichael said. The club also offers private events to nonmembers, so it looks at what other banquet spaces are doing to book more events.
Looking forward, managers expect their clubs to continue playing a role in the local professional community. People may connect online, Nevins said, but cocktail hours and dinners foster connections beyond swapping basic resume and profile information.
“You might be sitting in our lounge, next to or across from one of Baltimore’s brand-new leaders or one of Baltimore’s very famed leaders, sharing stories of career success and giving advice and counsel,” Nevins said. “I will project that it will be a long, long time before the online world replaces the person world.”
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 Originally published on thedailyrecord.com
Imported crab meat labeled as a Chesapeake Bay product will not fool local seafood connoisseurs who have grown up eating Maryland crab cakes and picking blue crab meat.
But the average shopper might see two containers reading “crab meat” and pick the cheaper option, without considering where the meat’s origin. Some seafood packaging facilities have been misidentifying foreign crab meat, then selling it a fraction of the cost of authentic blue crab meat — worrying local watermen and restaurateurs who make a living on the seafood industry.
“If you can import something and market it as crab meat, people will buy it because it’s cheap. They don’t buy it because it’s good,” said Bill Devine, co-owner of Faidley’s Seafood in Baltimore. “It’s just a sociological, financial part of the business.”
Now, a bipartisan team of Chesapeake Bay-area legislators wants to stop what the group says are misleading labeling practices when it comes to crab meat.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and three Virginia legislators last week sent a letter to Barack Obama to request that the administration include deceptive labeling in a White House task force focusing on illegal fishing and seafood fraud.
Mikulski — along with Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) — wrote that some processors import foreign crab meat and label it as a U.S. product after repackaging it.
“As a result, domestically harvested crabmeat is competing against the less expensive foreign crabmeat fraudulently labeled as a ‘product of the United States,’” the lawmakers wrote. “Deceptive labeling misleads customers and threatens the livelihood of the watermen in our states.”
Faidley’s Seafood in the past bought “hundreds of pounds” of Maryland crab meat to sell directly to customers, Devine. But the introduction of foreign crab meat has hurt the blue crab market. The price of authentic Chesapeake Bay blue crab meat, he said, is about 20 or 30 percent higher than imported meat. Average shoppers, who often want to find the best bang for their buck, might not understand the different varieties of crabs around the world, Devine said.
Imported crab meat prices have been exceptionally high this year, too, said Aubrey Vincent, who runs Lindy’s Seafood in Woolford, Maryland, with her father. She said facilities that pack domestic products are feeling pressure to cut corners to keep prices competitive.
“We’re in the same boat as other seafood houses. We have a good product, but it’s a really tough market to sell,” Vincent said. “They’re looking at the bottom line — the cost. We can’t process domestic products as cheaply as imported products.”
On the state level, legislators in February introduced a bill, which failed to advance, that would have made it illegal to knowingly mislabel seafood and would have required processors to identify a crab product’s origin. And in 2012, the Department of Natural Resources launched a “True Blue” program that certifies restaurants and markets that serve or sell Maryland blue crab products.
Addressing deceptive labeling helps ensure a higher quality product, said Robert T. Brown, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.
“I think (Mikulski) is doing an excellent job not only to protect our resources of the state of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay but also to protect the consumer,” Brown said. “We want to make sure they get what they’re paying for.”
Professors from seven Maryland universities over the past 18 months explored the effectiveness of online courseware from Coursera and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative.
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Monday, July 28, 2014 Originally published on thedailyrecord.com
For the past 20 years, Johnny Turtle has taught an ancient literature introductory course at various colleges and universities. His project-based course at University of Baltimore encouraged students to investigate topics through field research and readings and to report back to the class with their findings.
Students rated the course highly for its cultural enrichment, Turtle said, but some struggled to afford the high costs of texts along with tuition bills. So Turtle turned to a University System of Maryland and Ithaka S+R experiment and incorporated a massive open online course — commonly called MOOC — into his traditional curriculum.
Turtle and professors from seven Maryland universities over the past 18 months explored the effectiveness of online courseware from Coursera and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative. Generally, students in these online and hybrid sections performed well, and instructors praised course outcomes.
But a report released this month by Ithaka found something else: Today’s students, famously known for their affinity for technology, actually prefer traditional in-person class sections to hybrid sections. Students surveyed said they found in-class instruction and discussions were more valuable than online material.
Echoing the students’ viewpoints, analysts of the study agreed that higher education officials shouldn’t let their enthusiasm for MOOC programs overshadow the value of face time with instructors.
Rebecca Griffiths, the study’s lead author, said preference for traditional sections could come from discomfort with using new learning platforms.
“A hybrid class requires a certain amount of self-directed learning,” Griffiths said. “We also find that students really like having a personal relationship with their instructors. I don’t think anything’s going to change that.”
But the cost of learning is rising, putting pressure on higher education officials to find ways to maximize faculty-student interaction with limited resources. The University System of Maryland has looked to these interactive, online courses as a solution, and a $1.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation afforded Ithaka and the university system a chance to see how instructors could modify existing online materials and use them in the classroom.
“We need to take a really hard look at the capabilities that technologies have and to think about ways in which we can deliver content using the best technology available to fit the situation,” said M.J. Bishop, director of the university system’s Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning and Teaching.
Several instructors reported a few issues with the integration of new platforms with existing learning management systems, and intellectual property rights remain a gray area. But 15 of 16 instructors reported they definitely would take content from the experiment into account when designing or modifying future courses.
Turtle’s students used video lectures from a MOOC as a source for their investigative projects — a tool he plans to use again.
“It gave students an opportunity to pair the traditional knowledge through books with the contemporary approach through the digital vein,” Turtle said. “It’s really a wonderful curriculum because we’re able to journey into the past in multiple ways.”
For some students, such as Nandin Dave, hybrid courses turned out to be a better alternative than a strictly online course. The University of Maryland Baltimore County junior said he had to take required psychology and statistics classes, and he opted for the hybrid sections.
“I thought I’d try something new and check out an online course,” Dave said. “I got class time too, which helps. And I learned a lot when I went to class.”
The concept of a MOOC was foreign to University of Maryland Eastern Shore associate professor Joseph Pitula when the university system asked him to use online material in his genetics class.
Pitula had been involved with previous course redesigns, so he agreed to the project without hesitation.
“I think professors are beginning to realize that for us to simply recite material and students to regurgitate it on a test might not be the best way to teach someone the subject,” Pitula said. “We need to incorporate more opportunities to engage students.”
Students are already used to using technology at school, so it’s natural to make more resources available online, said Shoshana Brassfield, a Frostburg University professor who used a MOOC for her online summer course. But educators should look at technology as a supplement to teaching, she said, not a substitute.
“What’s starting to change is the idea that we might make whole lectures available online and use that face-to-face time more productively and interactively,” Brassfield said. “I think that has a lot of potential.”
“When you look at it — and it is ironic — the firearms industry was born in the Northeast. And they’re moving out in droves.”
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Friday, July 25, 2014 Originally posted on thedailyrecord.com
Beretta U.S.A. Corp., which earlier this week announced plans to move operations from Maryland to Tennessee, is just the latest firearms company to leave its home state for the South.
Officials from Beretta and other gun companies on the move attribute this trend to tightening gun control measures in Northeastern states. Southern states also are using tax incentives and other economic benefits to persuade these companies to pack up their operations and relocate.
The Northeast — in particular Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York — is the historic heart of the country’s gun and ammunition industry. Some manufacturers in the region, often known as the country’s Gun Valley, have been producing firearms since the 1800s.
But in the wake of mass shootings such as the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, some northern states responded by passing stricter gun laws. Since then, small and large gun companies have started turning toward the South, where they say looser gun restrictions and lower taxes create a better environment for business operations.
“When you look at it — and it is ironic — the firearms industry was born in the Northeast. And they’re moving out in droves,” said Johanna Reeves, executive director of the Firearms Import/Export Roundtable Trade Group in Washington. “Look at the politics of those states and how anti-gun they are.”
Kahr Firearms Group officials in 2013 announced the company’s decision to move its Blauvelt, New York, corporate office after the state passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act. The company had looked to expand operations in New York, but officials felt uncertain about how the act would affect business and decided to move to Pennsylvania instead.
“It had to do with the SAFE Act for sure, but more so with the way it was passed,” said Frank Harris, Kahr’s sales and marketing vice president. “No one from the New York state governor’s office asked us for any feedback or information about how this would impact our business. It’s hard enough to be successful in business today without this kind of uncertainty hanging over our head.”
Kahr’s main manufacturing office, located in Massachusetts, also faces uncertainty. Since the Sandy Hook shooting, state lawmakers have filed 60 gun-related legislative items that would limit gun licensing and sales and expand background checks on buyers. For now, Harris said, Kahr plans to continue operations in its Worcester, Massachusetts, office — but officials won’t guarantee how long they will stay.
“Massachusetts doesn’t want to harm the manufacturers, but harming our customers by making it more difficult for them with fines and fees — that does indirectly harm us,” Harris said.
Some gun-friendly states, such as Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, have capitalized on the northern states’ stricter laws by actively recruiting firearms companies. These states attract companies with low taxes and financial incentives, said Stephen Clermont, director of research and policy at Every Child Matters, a nonprofit that has partnered with other organizations to curb gun violence.
Clermont said gun makers likely leave states for these financial reasons rather than because of gun laws.
But officials from several companies that expanded or moved operations in the South — including Remington Outdoor Company, Ruger and American Tactical Imports — said the law was a factor in their decision.
In Beretta’s case, company officials initially planned to expand to Tennessee for the production of new products and continue some manufacturing in Maryland. Jeff Cooper, Beretta U.S.A. Corp. general manager, on Tuesday said officials worried about the business’s future in Maryland after the state Senate in 2013 passed the Firearm Safety Act.
The state’s House of Delegates reversed some provisions on the bill, which would have prevented the manufacturing and import of firearms, but the company grew concerned that similar bills might pass in the future.
Reeves, who said she could not comment specifically on Beretta’s move, said she does not expect states that lose gun-related business to ease their restrictions. She said those states often enact policies with the expectation that they will lower violence and crime statistics.
“Criminals do not follow the law,” Reeves said. “These changes affect only law-abiding citizens and corporations. Citizens vote with their feet, and corporations can choose to leave.”
The drive for tougher gun-control laws in some states does not appear to have affected gun sales. If anything, gun sales and permit applications historically spike following high-profile shootings that have prompted the legislation.
It’s not just because people feel an increased need for self-defense, according to the firearms industry. Mass shootings lead to political debates about tightening gun control measures, which analysts say in turn drives people to purchase guns in anticipation of stricter laws.
For instance, the FBI said it recorded 2.78 million background checks in December 2012 — the month of the Newtown shootings — easily surpassing the mark set in November of 2.01 million checks, according to Reuters.
The Constellation, an 1854 sloop-of-war, will undergo a $2.25 million renovation in late October to restore its hull and rigging.
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Thursday, July 24, 2014 Originally published on thedailyrecord.com
A Baltimore icon will be missing from its berth at the Inner Harbor this fall as the USS Constellation heads into dry dock for what ship museum officials say are critical maintenance repairs.
The Constellation, an 1854 sloop-of-war, will undergo a $2.25 million renovation in late October to restore its hull and rigging, said Chris Rowsom, executive director of Historic Ships in Baltimore.
The museum still needs about $250,000 for the restoration project before it transports the ship to the U.S. Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Rowsom said. The state allotted $1.25 million for Constellation improvements in the fiscal year 2015 budget, and the city of Baltimore contributed $750,000. And recently, nonprofit Baltimore Heritage Area Association awarded the museum a $10,000 grant to help replace the ship’s main yard.
This fall marks the ship’s second move to dry dock in four years. The Constellation and its submarine neighbor, the USS Torsk, went to the Sparrows Point shipyard in 2011 for planned maintenance. During the project, workers realized freshwater seepage had caused the ship’s laminated hull planking to rot below the waterline.
“We found one little spot that was rearing its ugly head, and it turned into a 60-foot hole,” Rowsom said. “We didn’t have the time or money to do the whole job. We basically patched up the big hole and started to plan the next dry docking.”
Workers in 2003 first noticed some deterioration along the top edge of laminated hull planking that had been added during a $9 million restoration project between 1996 and 1999. The top edge, they learned, had not been correctly constructed. Though workers repaired the edge to prevent further seepage, the damage had already weakened the ship’s frame — and the rot will keep spreading until workers move the ship out of water.
“We fixed the cause of the problem, but we didn’t realize how invasive it had actually become,” Rowsom said. “It was sort of like a malignancy.”
The issue is serious, Rowsom said, but the ship is not in any sort of immediate danger. Museum staff members want to correct the problem before the rot gets into the ship’s remaining historic fabric.
During the upcoming renovation, workers will replace about 6,000 feet of hull planking and the ship’s 85-foot-long main yard. About 40 people from the museum and the Coast Guard will spend four months on the project.
“It’s a fairly straightforward project, but it requires a lot of time and manpower and the funding to get it done,” Rowsom said.
Commissioned in 1855, the Constellation was the flagship of the U.S. African Squadron and helped to capture vessels engaging in illegal slave trade. In the 1870s, the Constellation became a training ship at the Naval Academy, and it later served as the flagship of the U.S. Atlantic fleet for about six months during World War II.
The ship arrived in Baltimore in 1955 and has since become landmark for city tourism. About 140,000 people visit the Constellation and the museum’s other vessels annually, Rowsom said. Thousands of students and scout groups attend overnight programs aboard the Constellation to learn about the lives of the sailors who served years ago.
Patricia Clarke, of Pittsburgh, recently toured the Constellation with her sister, passing the ship’s sleeping quarters and pausing in the kitchen. Their great-grandfather and his brother were cooks aboard the ship during the Civil War.
“It was so moving to go on the ship and walk where our ancestor walked,” Clarke said. “You just can’t believe that this wood ship crossed the high seas so many times and fought battles. It just blew me away.”
The Constellation and the Torsk are the museum’s top attractions, but Rowsom doesn’t expect the ship’s repairs to have a strong impact on business because the renovations are scheduled during the tourism off-season.
But the ship will be missed during that time, some tourists said this week.
Catonsville resident Sheila Wheltle, who visited the Constellation with her family in May, said the ship offers visitors a “strong sense of history.”
“You have a unique view of Harborplace from the side of the ship,” said Wheltle, of Catonsville. “It’s fun, a really neat signature part of the Inner Harbor. It’s an enjoyable tourist attraction for the city.”
Maryland lawyers said they’re seeing more and more people leave big general firms to establish themselves as experts in areas from intellectual property to white-collar defense or labor employment.
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Friday, July 11, 2014 Originally published on thedailyrecord.com
Seven years ago, Nancy Sachitano ran into a friend from law school at a courthouse. They were both present to argue motions in front of a judge. He worked at a large, local firm; she was a family lawyer at a small firm.
The judge called her friend’s case forward, and Sachitano watched as two other lawyers joined him at the front of the room. Her friend did not speak at all. When Sachitano’s turn came, she did the entire motion on her own.
“The contrast seemed very stark to me,” Sachitano said. “He essentially was there carrying the other guy’s bag. He had almost 20 years of experience, and he still was not the one to stand up in court and argue a motion.”
Sachitano opened her own family law firm, Sachitano & Associates, in 2011 after 14 years managing another firm. She wanted to be her own boss, to have creative freedom and build her own infrastructure.
Her Montgomery County practice is part of a trend toward smaller boutique firms that focus on a niche area of law. The trend isn’t new, but Maryland lawyers said they’re seeing more and more people leave big general firms to establish themselves as experts in areas from intellectual property to white-collar defense or labor employment.
The risks of opening a new practice are great, but the payoff is greater, said Ty Kelly, of Biran Kelly LLC in Baltimore.
“I wanted to have the ability to take any case that I wanted, turn down the cases that I wasn’t comfortable with and be able to make my own way,” Kelly said.
Kelly, a former federal prosecutor, and Jonathan Biran opened their criminal defense firm in March 2013 after leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore. Criminal defense was the natural transition, Kelly said, and the partners have spent the past 16 months experimenting to see what types of cases they like the most.
“My heart and soul is in criminal litigation, always has been,” Kelly said. “Having my own small firm that specializes in that works perfectly — as long as you can sustain yourself. That’s the business side of it.”
Kelly said she and Biran have enough work to support an associate, but they’ve been careful about their next move. They want to find someone who will stay and help grow the firm.
Since opening her firm, Sachitano said, she’s enjoyed the ability to make decisions on her own. When she worked for a previous firm, she persuaded her partners to switch to a new computer operating system, infuriating part of the staff. Now, at her own firm, resistance isn’t a challenge. She’s been able to explore ideas such as fixed-fee billing instead of billing clients by the hour.
“There’s obviously some risk when you start doing these things for the first time,” Sachitano said. “But I could try the experiment and see how it worked, as opposed to spending six months or more getting other lawyers to agree.”
Opening a boutique firm gives an individual the ability to build an organization of people with similar backgrounds who can collaborate on cases, said Jim Astrachan, of Astrachan Gunst Thomas in Baltimore.
Astrachan worked in tax and business law at the beginning of his career and taught tax courses at Loyola University Maryland. He developed an interest in intellectual property after representing a former student who was helping to create an advertising agency. Over time, he formed his own practice, where eight to nine lawyers litigate and counsel in areas such as copyright and trademark.
While litigation can be stressful, Astrachan finds ways to relax. Having his own practice means he can wear jeans and a pair of cowboy boots and bring his five-pound Chihuahua to the office. He teaches courses at the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore law schools and frequently appears on radio shows.
“I’m free to come and go pretty much as I want. I can create my own spirituality within the office,” Astrachan said. “This sort of adds to your peace of mind in what is a very stressful environment.”
But boutique firms are not without their challenges. Some general practice firms are developing their own niche departments, said Stephen Shawe, of Shawe & Rosenthal LLP in Baltimore.
Shawe’s father, Earl Shawe, went into private practice in 1947 to focus on labor law and later employment law. For many years, general practice firms referred clients to the boutique firm. Now, large local and national firms have their own departments, and Shawe & Rosenthal doesn’t receive as many referrals.
“But we have established ourselves as a specialty firm,” Shawe said. “Every single one of our clients has a general practice corporate lawyer. But they rely on us for labor employment work.”
Shawe said larger general practice firms — both local and national — have solicited his firm to merge, but no one in his office has expressed interest in working for a bigger practice.
Charles Curlett Jr., of Levin & Curlett LLC, left Saul Ewing in 2011 to spend more time representing individuals in a courtroom setting. The courtroom, he said, is where his core interest lies.
Curlett has found that practicing at a boutique firm is like working for a startup company instead of a major corporation.
“With startups, you’re not working any less or putting in fewer hours. But it’s a different dynamic,” Curlett said. “You feel that you’re the master of your own destiny, which makes it exciting.”
The 230-year-old, city-owned Lexington Market is preparing for a massive renovation that could cost about $25 million.
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
Thursday, July 10, 2014 Originally published on thedailyrecord.com
In the 45 years she has worked at Faidley’s Seafood, Damye Hahn witnessed the slow transformation of Lexington Market’s role in downtown Baltimore.
As a child, she watched customers line up for fresh roasted peanuts at Konstant’s Foods and pick out rockfish from her parent’s store. But then supermarket chains made their way into the city, becoming the primary source of grocery items. Market vendors adapted, and many began serving cooked foods at their stands to fill the void.
“It’s easy for people to go to the grocery store and get their toilet paper at the same place they get everything else,” Hahn said. “It’s kind of changed the way people shop.”
Hahn and other market stakeholders hope to return to the old market style, where merchants specialize in a diverse array of fresh menu offerings. The 230-year-old, city-owned Lexington Market is preparing for a massive renovation that could cost about $25 million. City and market officials are collaborating with patrons and vendors to determine how they can reinvigorate interest in the historic market through preservation and modernization.
In March, Maine-based consulting firm Market Ventures led a survey of the market, asking patrons and vendors about their perceptions of the market and desires for its future. The firm will present a summary of the findings by July 31, and the market’s steering committee and board of trustees will develop a plan of action for design and merchandising in the fall, said Robert Thomas, assistant general manager at Lexington Market Inc.
Based on initial findings, Thomas said, people wanted a larger menu of items — including more artisanal and ethnic foods — to attract a broader customer base.
“It’s wonderful that the market has fresh food, lower cost products, and it’s essential that we maintain that,” Thomas said. “But we’re not representing a full spectrum of customers.”
Hahn envisions a new layout, where the market is divided into sections based on product offerings.
Market Ventures also recognized a need to make physical changes to the market’s layout to bring the building up to regulation, said Ted Spizter, the firm’s president. And the perception of safety, market and city officials said, must improve.
Two and a half years ago, police and security officers from the city, the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Lexington Market collaborated to tackle crime — and statistics show that crime has dropped since then, Perman said.
But there remains the challenge of convincing students, faculty and staff to check out the market, said Jay Perman, UMB president.
“It’s a conscious effort to deal with the kind of environment that has made people uncomfortable,” Perman said.
Hahn said she hears concerns about pill peddlers and drug users outside the market, but she has never seen them. But she’s had to deal with unauthorized individuals trying to sell items in her store.
On Monday, a man walked through Faidley’s, attempting to sell socks to restaurant patrons. Hahn and a coworker asked him twice to leave before he walked out the door.
“During the week in the afternoons, it’s common,” she said as the sock-seller wandered outside. “Here in the city, you cannot stop people from walking in and out. We have guards, and they push them along, but unless they’re doing something illegal, you can’t arrest them.”
Inside the market, several patrons said they want vendors to add healthier items to the menu.
“There’s not a lot of fresh fruit stands,” said Dan Taylor, a Nebraska government worker in town for business. He said he walked around the market trying to find lunch before settling on a dish from “one of 20 fried chicken places.”
Lexington Market has undergone previous renovations and reinventions. For vendors and local patrons, preserving the market’s past is essential in any new modernization plan
“We have to look at the history of Lexington Market, its importance to the city, and we have to be looking long-term, too,” Spitzer said. “We want to do what’s best in the long run, even if there’s short-term unpleasantness.”
Alvin Barksdale has been coming to the market with his mother since he was a child. Over a late breakfast Wednesday afternoon with his family, he recalled the smell of fresh meats and the sight of cultures mixing together.
“I come here for the history. It’s connected to our culture,” said Barksdale, of East Baltimore.
One Monday, two airline pilots in town for business stood at a counter in Faidley’s Seafood, eating platters of macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and — of course, they said — crab cakes.
“It’s one of the best crab cakes in the world,” said Bill Neal, of Memphis, Tenn.
Neal said he read reviews of the crab cakes on Yelp a few years ago and decided to stop by. He travels to markets all over the world to sample food from vendors, and he makes a point of stopping at Faidley’s every time he’s in Baltimore.
“It’s kind of what we search for when we fly out overseas because we try a little bit of this and that, a different culture,” Neal said. “This is definitely Baltimore culture right here.”
Volunteers in dispute with museum, vow they’re done working on sub
By Jenny Hottle, Daily Record Business Writer
July 3, 2014 Originally posted on thedailyrecord.com
Gil Bohannon spent nearly every Saturday for 17 years aboard the USS Torsk, archiving photographs, books and other documents. Bohannon and a band of 25 to 30 volunteers, part of a larger group of mostly naval veterans, their families and historians, often averaged eight hours a day restoring the shark-painted World War II submarine docked near the National Aquarium.
These days, you’ll see tourists visiting the Torsk, but you won’t find Bohannon and his fellow volunteers.
The Torsk Volunteer Association members say they no longer feel wanted by Historic Ships, the maritime museum that oversees the submarine. And after years of devotion to the Torsk, they’ve stayed away since April.
For its part, Historic Ships is mystified, executive director Chris Rowsom said Wednesday.
The nautical standoff appears to center on volunteer paperwork requirements instituted a few months ago by the museum.
Rowsom said the association’s members have not been allowed to return to service because they have failed to complete the museum’s new application process, which includes release forms, media releases and background checks. He said he discussed the requirements with members of the group before the policies went into effect.
Torsk Volunteer Association members said they were unaware of the changes.
“No one’s told us about that,” said Bohannon, a network engineer and a ship’s historian for the association.
Volunteers say they feel disrespected and unappreciated by the museum. And they are miffed about the need for the application after 17 years of loving and caring for the old submarine.
Previously, some members had their own keys to access the submarine, Bohannon said. But the museum, which also oversees three ships and a lighthouse, updated its procedures in April to better fit with legal and insurance requirements, Rowsom said.
“No one’s been told that they can’t volunteer. Members of the volunteer association are welcome at any time,” Rowsom said. “We wanted to know their names, their contact information. We are separate organizations working out some differences, which I’m sure will be taken care of and solved over time.”
The volunteer association, founded in 1997, aimed to help preserve the submarine’s history and build a community for the veterans who served on it. Mike Eacho, the group’s chairman, estimated that members have spent more than $36,000 on restoration projects and about 1,000 hours of volunteer work per year.
“We did it out of honor for the people who served on that submarine and other submarines, so the public sees it in a good light,” Bohannon said.
Over the years, volunteers have changed light bulbs, cleaned and painted rooms, repaired equipment and collected artifacts for display.
On Wednesday, about a dozen tourists passed through the submarine’s narrow corridors, stern to bow. A family stopped in front of 10-foot-long brown and green torpedoes. A father and his daughter counted the number of bunk beds in the crew’s berthing area. One visitor walking around the crew’s mess laughed at a poster reading, “There are two kinds of ships: submarines and targets.”
A few rooms away, a light bulb flickered in the crew’s washroom above a poison antidote locker. Outside, where a man and woman snapped photos of the Torsk with their smartphones, chips in the submarine’s gray body revealed rust.
Joan Murphy, who works for Historic Ships, sanded down the submarine’s newly replaced deck. She usually works on the USS Constellation’s restoration crew but was helping out with the Torsk for the day. She said she had not heard much about the volunteers who used to help the museum staff with restorations.
“It’s been three months without the regular maintenance on board,” Bohannon said. “We monitored everything on a regular basis, but we don’t know if they do.”
Historic Ships staff members are “highly qualified, and our board members are very committed to the stewardship of the fleet,” Rowsom said.
While the submarine was in use, it held about 80 crew members, including Kimberley Coleman’s father.
Coleman, a Connecticut resident, found a Reddit post earlier this week expressing volunteers’ frustration with the museum.
“I was just horrified to think that the volunteers were being prevented from doing what they love and what is such an important part of our history,” said Coleman, who sent a letter to Rowsom about the volunteer association.
“The good work that they’ve done for almost two decades has halted.”
Coleman’s father, William Coleman, served aboard the Torsk from 1944 to 1945. He dropped out of Dartmouth College and joined 17- and 18-year-olds to fight in the Navy.
Growing up, Coleman and her three sisters loved to hear their father’s stories of life on the submarine. He recalled close encounters with mines in the Tsushima Strait and rescue missions of Japanese sea merchants.
Coleman saw the Torsk in person for the first time shortly after 9/11, when her father and his friend ran a bell for submariners lost at sea. She felt a rush of emotions as she saw the cot where her father slept and the room where he loaded torpedoes.
The submarine represents the people who no longer are alive to tell their story, Coleman said.
“The volunteers are preserving a rare bit of history with all that it deserves,” Coleman said. “They’ve committed themselves, dedicated themselves. They have in their hearts and souls a love for the Torsk.”
Rowsom said Torsk Volunteer Association members can help out again by completing the required paperwork.
“A lot of the boat looks like it does because of the wonderful work that the Torsk Volunteer Association has done over the years,” Rowsom said. “We really appreciate the efforts of everybody who has donated their time.”
But Eacho said he doesn’t expect the volunteers to return, unless they can come back as a group. He said he wants Historic Ships to work with members as an association, not as individuals.
“No one has approached the museum, and as far as I know, none of the members will,” Eacho said. “We’ve told every single member that it’s up to them. But nobody wants to.”