Captain Waterfront to hold first-ever Middle River Penguin Plunge

Captain Waterfront to hold first-ever Middle River Penguin Plunge

(Updated 2/1/17)

- By Devin Crum -


In the same spirit as Maryland’s annual Polar Bear Plunge, real estate professional Harry “Skip” Tolley wants you to be “freezin’ for a reason” this month and help raise money for a good cause.

Tolley, also known as Captain Waterfront, will host the inaugural Middle River Penguin Plunge on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Middle River’s Sunset Cove restaurant, beginning at 11 a.m.

The event will benefit Operation NPLB, formerly known as No Person Left Behind, a veteran service organization. According to its website, Operation NPLB was founded in 2006 as an independent charity that allows like-minded professional hunters, fishermen and outdoor-minded people to ensure that disabled veterans always receive the best outdoor hunting and fishing opportunities.

NPLB Outdoors aids in the recovery and rehabilitation of injured service members from all eras who must endure the lifelong sacrifices made for our country. NPLB supports injured soldiers, sailors, Coasties, airmen and Marines by reintroducing them to hunting, fishing and life outdoors. Volunteers offer their time and skills to aid in the emotional recovery of our veterans through outdoor activities with fellowship and the encouragement to overcome any disability.

According to Tolley, 100 percent of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the organization.

Tolley also expressed his excitement for the event and his dedication to making it a success.

“If I get my horns into it, I’m not going to stop until it’s going to be a success,” he said, using the first golf tournament he organized as an example, which he described as a “massive success.”

Tolley added that he bent over backwards and worked himself to the bone to organize that tournament. “And I’ll do the same for this because it’s such a good cause and it’ll be something fun.”

He said the numbers of plungers signing up have been steadily climbing.

“It’s gonna be a blast, and they don’t have to drive to Annapolis to do it,” Tolley commented.

For their $50 plunge fee, plungers will receive a long-sleeve event shirt, along with an unforgettable experience. Teams of plungers as well as individuals are welcome, and anyone who wishes to attend but wants to stay warm and dry can simply pay a $10 cover charge at Sunset Cove which will also go toward the charitable proceeds.

“So people that don’t want to play and are scared, they can just come by and watch,” Tolley joked.

As of Tuesday, the event had raised about $1,400 from 17 donors, according to the registration web page, but Tolley noted that he is looking to register at least 100 plungers for the event. And he is hoping to raise at least an additional $50 from sponsors for each plunger as well.

Aside from jumping into the frigid waters of Middle River, the event will feature a heated tent, food and drink specials, special give-aways and a DJ for entertainment.

Tolley said of the event that some plungers he has spoken to are “really getting into it,” planning to don penguin costumes, gorilla suits and other fun attire while jumping into the water.

“I just want to make this a very big, local event in the middle of winter when nobody knows what to do,” he said.

Tolley explained that he is trying to keep the whole event as simple and streamlined as possible, so everything, including registration, donations and corporate donations, can be done through the event’s donation page at www.myevent.com/MiddleRiverPenguinPlunge.

Anyone wishing to become a corporate sponsor for the event is invited to contact organizers through their Facebook page or email sunsetcovemdevents@gmail.com.

Sunset Cove is located at 3408 Red Rose Farm Road in Bowleys Quarters. Visit the event’s Facebook page at Middle River Penguin Plunge for more information or to register. The Facebook page also has a link to the donation and registration page.

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PACE loans now available to help businesses invest in cost-saving renewable energy and conservation

Public-private partnership cuts upfront costs

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that the county is moving forward with a program to help property and business owners more easily afford building energy improvements like energy-efficient HVAC and lighting upgrades, in addition to renewable energy projects like solar and geothermal.

On Monday, Dec. 19, the Baltimore County Council approved the county’s PACE loan program, enabling property and business owners in the county to take advantage of Maryland’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (MD-PACE) program. MD-PACE is an innovative and affordable way for commercial building owners to pay for energy improvements.

Through MD-PACE, commercial, industrial and nonprofit properties use private capital to finance 100 percent of efficiency and renewable energy upgrades which are then repaid as a long-term surcharge on their real property tax bill, for terms up to 20 years. This kind of voluntary surcharge added to a property’s tax bill is similar to a surcharge for a sewer or water line. This approach makes energy upgrades accessible, allowing owners to reduce energy and operational costs and improve overall the value of their buildings.

The county selected PACE Financial Servicing (PFS) to administer the program, coordinating with commercial property owners, lenders and contractors throughout the PACE loan approval process. Their services are provided at no cost to the county.

“By instituting our PACE loan program, we are removing a major barrier for businesses that want to significantly cut their operating energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint,” said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “It’s another way that we are partnering with the private sector to create positive economic results and it’s another of our Clean Green County initiatives.”

“This is a great real-world solution that helps businesses quickly improve their bottom line while having a positive effect on the environment,” said County Council Chair Vicki Almond.

PACE loans benefit businesses and the environment

Nationally, PACE loan programs are active in more than 15 states, have contributed to the creation of 3,600 jobs and have led to more than $300 million of green energy investments in commercial buildings. Baltimore County’s PACE loans are available countywide to commercial, industrial, agricultural, hospitality, retail and multifamily properties to access funding for energy-efficient and renewable energy upgrades. The loans can also be used to finance energy projects for new construction.

“Business owners are responding with strong interest to this new program because it allows them to achieve long-term energy cost reductions without the challenge of covering upfront installation costs in the short-term,” said Baltimore County Economic and Workforce Director Will Anderson.

The MD-PACE Program is a partnership between the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC) - the statewide sponsor of the program - and PACE Financing Servicing (PFS), which administers the program.

“By joining the MD-PACE program, Baltimore County has become the largest jurisdiction in the metro area to enable PACE financing for its business community. We have received a lot of interest from the private sector and we believe the county is on its way to become a leading PACE market,” said Gerard Neely, manager of Maryland’s Commercial PACE Programs for PFS.

Enabling businesses to invest in renewable energy projects helps diversify local energy sources and complements the county’s solar projects, as 21 MW of solar projects were announced last summer. Public and private sector renewable energy projects alike help increase community resilience to climate change, while also reducing pressure on the electric grid.

Baltimore County’s PACE loan terms

The commercial PACE loans are secured through private lenders, must have a minimum value of $5,000 and may not be more than 20 percent of the full cash value of the property, as determined by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. Loans would be nonaccelerating for terms up to 20 years, and repayable through a surcharge on the real property tax bill. If a property owner defaults on their PACE loan, the county would not be responsible in any way to cover the deficit.

Commercial property owners, contractors and capital providers interested in MD-PACE, should visit www.md-pace.com or call the Maryland Clean Energy Center at 443-949-8505. For more information on the county’s PACE program, businesses may contact Energy and Sustainability Program Coordinator, Ayla Haig at 410-887-5854 or ahaig@baltimorecountymd.gov.

Ribbon cutting for revitalized Shoppes at Perry Hall

Ribbon cutting for revitalized Shoppes at Perry Hall

(Updated 11/21/16)

- Article & photo by Patrick Taylor -


On a beautiful morning last Friday, Nov. 18, County Councilman David Marks and Delegate Christian Miele joined members of the Seasons Pizza team to officially cut the ribbon on the newly revitalized Shoppes at Perry Hall, located at 8833 Belair Road.

For the last few years, Marks has highly prioritized revitalizing the downtown Perry Hall area, and the Shoppes at Perry Hall represents years of hard work focusing on Joppa, Belair and Ebenezer Roads, he said.

“This project has taken more than three years from permitting through construction, but I am happy this derelict area has been greatly improved and beautified,” said Marks.

The shopping center is 50 percent leased, with Seasons Pizza taking up a good portion of the space. Besides having a new storefront, the location will also serve as the district headquarters for the restaurant. Space in the back of the building has been leased by an engineering firm. There is still space available, but owners expect it to be filled with a national chain in the near future.

The Shoppes at Perry Hall was developed by John Mazarakis with King Construction handling work as the prime contractor.

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Drayer’s ‘Petals it Forward’

Drayer’s ‘Petals it Forward’
Laura Posluszny doled out flowers at the intersection of Rossville Boulevard and Mace Avenue in Essex on Oct. 19.

(Updated 10/26/16)

- Article & photo by Patrick Taylor -


Last week, Laura Posluszny, owner of Drayer’s Florist, and her daughter, Brandy, ‘petaled it forward’ around east Baltimore County, handing out hundreds of bouquets of flowers.

Laura and Brandy visited different areas of the east side, giving unsuspecting motorists two bouquets of flowers - one for them, one to pass along to someone else. Of course, the flowers were free of charge.

For the second year in a row, the Society of American Florists campaigned in New York City to highlight the benefits of gifting flowers to another. The SAF called on others to petal it forward to replicate their actions around the country. Studies have shown that both receiving and giving flowers demonstrably improve one’s mood in a given day by upwards of 88 percent.

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Major upgrades, new anchor at Fullerton Plaza

Major upgrades, new anchor at Fullerton Plaza

Kimco Realty, owner of Fullerton Plaza shopping center, will initiate a renovation of the center, replacing the vacant K-Mart space with a new Weis Market supermarket and improving the overall aesthetics of the center.

The renovation will also include rehabilitation to the aging façade of the shopping center and major landscaping improvements, including the planting of trees throughout the parking area.

The Weis Market store will feature a 1,000-item produce department with a wide selection of organic items, an expansive deli-food service section with a café, meat and seafood, in-store-made sushi, a full-service pharmacy, a fuel center and much more.

Work is expected to start in spring 2017 and be completed by the end of the year. The Weis Market is expected to be open in late 2017.

Fullerton Plaza has been a staple of the Belair Road corridor for many years, according to Baltimore County Councilman David Marks who represents the area. Built in the 1970s, the shopping center is located at the Baltimore Beltway and Belair Road.

“This shopping center is ready for a change, and I am happy that Kimco Realty and Weis Markets will be investing funds in Fullerton Plaza to construct a supermarket and to renovate the exterior and landscape the parking lot, where there are currently no trees to highlight the look of the shopping center,” Marks commented. “When I called a meeting of community leaders from this area, they were clearly interested in improvements to this aging part of the Belair Road corridor. I look forward to the completion of this project.”

“This will be our 12th and largest store in Baltimore County. We will offer a strong combination of quality, value and service,” said Kurt Schertle, Weis Markets’ chief operating officer. “We appreciate the local support for this project, particularly from Councilman Marks and look forward to making it a reality.”

“Fullerton Plaza is a great asset in a thriving market, which is why Kimco has chosen to invest in its redevelopment,” said Gregory Reed, vice president of development in Kimco’s Mid-Atlantic region. “Our goal is to provide the best possible shopping experience to our local customers, and we’re confident that the changes to come will be well received by the community.”

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Long Beach Oyster House rebrands, looks forward to winter months

Long Beach Oyster House rebrands, looks forward to winter months
Long Beach has a wide variety of oysters for those who love them, and a great menu for those who don’t.

- Article & photo by Devin Crum -

(Updated 9/21/16)


Long Beach Oyster House (formerly Long Beach Restaurant and Tavern) has a new owner who has already given the restaurant’s menu a makeover, and is working on some physical upgrades as well.

Manager Jason Slemp, who, with his wife, purchased Long Beach back in February, has a lot of experience in the restaurant and bar industry and wanted to create a unique identity for the establishment.

A coworker and I decided to visit Long Beach for lunch recently to check out the new menu and we could not have been happier with our choice.

Now, being an oyster house, oysters will be a big part of the restaurant’s menu and brand going forward. Slemp even revealed that he is considering converting the back of the upstairs bar to an oyster raw bar and display case. So naturally, we had to sample some of their offerings.

My coworker was not much for oysters, so I slurped them all down myself, trying out four of their varieties. All were delicious, especially when garnished with Long Beach’s spicy cocktail sauce. But being a bigger fan of the saltier varieties, the locals (being somewhat salty from our brackish water) and the Salt Points (extra salty) really stuck in my mind.

The menu offers several varieties ranging from somewhat sweet to salty for all the oyster connoisseurs out there. And if you’re not big on them, you’ll still find something to love on Long Beach’s excellent menu.

Following the oysters, we started off with the Firecracker Shrimp and the Ahi Tuna Salad, as well as some Crab Avocado Dip.

As you might guess from the name, the Firecracker Shrimp had a kick of spicy heat as the breaded, fried and glazed shrimp were served with fresh jalapeños in a lettuce bowl. But if you can get past the heat (or even enjoy it, like me), there is a honey-like sweetness to the glaze as well which gives it great balance.

The Crab Avocado Dip was a great starter as well with its fresh, light flavors of avocado, crab and corn salsa to wake up the taste buds and get the digestion started.

And although it was still the beginning of the meal, the Ahi Tuna Salad was off to an early lead as my favorite dish. It began as a standard garden salad, but added in artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and seared sushi-grade ahi tuna and finished with a cucumber wasabi dressing. The fresh, cool tastes of the vegetables combined with the savory tuna flavors make it a great dish for the summer and fall seasons.

The next dish turned out to be my coworker’s favorite with its conventional style and local flair. I’m speaking, of course, of the Maryland Melt, which is Long Beach’s take on a traditional grilled cheese sandwich. The difference, though, is that this one adds in tomatoes, crab meat and bacon, which flowed out the sides with each spectactular bite.

Next up were the fabulous Mahi Tacos, consisting of blackened mahi mahi on mini tortillas, with a mango salsa and a creamy sauce drizzled on top. Warm and fresh, they were the perfect mix of sweet and savory - great if you’re looking for a beachy meal at home.

And finally, the Chicken Monte Blanco capped off our meal. Although somewhat uncharacteristic of the rest of the meal, it seemed to me more the type of dish you might find in an upscale restaurant. The white wine sauce with the pasta, the chicken and the crab with artichoke hearts gave it a lighter feel while still working as a delicious, filling dinner dish.

Overall, it was truly wonderful dining experience.

Slemp noted that he got his start in the industry at a fairly young age after his uncles bought a bar in 1992. He worked in and around that and future establishments they owned, learning all about it. They now own the nearby Sunset Cove as well, along with two other establishments in Harford County.

But Long Beach is his first attempt at breaking out on his own while taking what he has learned and applying it there. Although the dining has been revamped, much of Long Beach’s social character which made it popular in the past has been retained, specifically the live music on weekends.

And more upgrades are coming as well. Slemp has already improved access to the deck outside and plans to install a large tent to be able to keep it open yearround, regardless of the weather. He plans to make the establishment a Ravens Roost as well.

Being an oyster house, Slemp is looking forward to the winter months too, since oysters are traditionally on the menu in months with an “r” in them, of which there are plenty left to come.

He said business has picked up since he has owned Long Beach, but “Winter is when we believe will be the busy season here, not summer.”

Long Beach Oyster House is located at 818 Bowleys Quarters Road in Middle River. To view their full menu, including new weekly specials released every Friday, or for more information, visit www.longbeachrestaurant.net.

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By The Docks takes home five Best of Baltimore awards

By The Docks takes home five Best of Baltimore awards

- By Patrick Taylor -

Award season is always kind of tricky to navigate - after all, the “experts” don’t always have sound opinions. However, one thing that’s tough to dispute is a vote straight from the people, and in Baltimore Magazine’s recent “Best Of Baltimore” poll, the readers showed a lot of love to By The Docks.

The voters selected By The Docks for Best Crab Cake Sandwich, Best Crab Balls, Best Crab Dip, Best Cream of Crab Soup and Best Crab Imperial. The recognition left owner John Kanellopoulos floored.

“We take a lot of pride in this, it’s a big honor,” said Kanellopoulos. “This is all customer based, and that’s what makes this even better.”

Kanellopoulos heaped high praise on chef Jose Antonio Villanueva, whose work in the kitchen has returned By The Docks to its former glory. This is the first batch of awards to come out since Villanueva returned to the kitchen (he had previously worked there when it first opened) and the restaurant’s return to form has been cemented.

“The good thing is we’re bringing people back into the area,” said Kanellopoulos. “People are coming from Pikesville, Owings Mills, Bel Air. People are even coming in from Delaware and central Pennsylvania.”

Since the announcement from Baltimore Magazine, Kanellopoulos has stated that he’s seen an uptick in business.

“The thing about this place is that it isn’t the Harbor,” said Kanellopoulos. “People are coming here solely because they know that this is the area where you get great seafood.”

Kanellopoulos also had plenty of high praise for the rest of his staff, stating that “without good service, you aren’t going to get customer’s that want to support your restaurant.”

“The waiters, the cooks, they all have a great drive,” said Kanellopoulos. “Our chef is a fierce leader, just the way he gets everyone going. He has a lot of knowledge and the staff listens attentively. Guys are building their futures through our chef, and he’s truly the best of Baltimore.”

Earlier this year, onlyinyourstate.com also rated By The Docks as one of the best crab cakes in Maryland.

By The Docks is located at 3321 Eastern Boulevard in Middle River. To check out the menu and see hours of operation, visit www.bythedocks.com.

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