CAMBRIDGE—Maryland state Comptroller Peter Franchot visited Cambridge on Friday, Dec. 15, promoting local shopping for the holidays. Mr. Franchot visited Simmons Center Market, the Hooper Island Oyster Company pop-up shop at their manufacturing facility on Chesapeake Drive, and RAR Brewing on Poplar Street.
“Our local stores rely upon local business,” said Mr. Franchot. “The money that you spend in Main Street stores gets spent locally. Local shopping is good for the local economy, and it’s the one thing that really gets the local economy moving.”
Joining the comptroller for this year’s tour was Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley, Senator Addie Eckardt, Delegate Johnny Mautz and members of the comptroller’s staff. He greeted Ricky Travers, owner of the Simmons Market, and Mr. Travers father Calvin, and declared Simmons Market as “my favorite place to visit for the holidays. Simmons Market is a Cambridge institution, and the quintessential destination for old time holiday shopping.”
Mr. Franchot bought a pair of poinsettias at the market for his home, as he usually does during his visit. “Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them,” he said. “Local businesses represent almost 70 percent of the economic activity in the state. Right now they are very under-appreciated, and people are picking convenience over what they should be doing,” which is shop local, according to the comptroller.
“We all need to shop local, especially during the Christmas season,” the comptroller said. Saying so, he presented Ricky Travers with a Shop Local Maryland sign, at which point Mr. Travers pointed out that the sign given to him by the comptroller last year was proudly displayed in the front window of the store.
In a shout-out to The Banner, Mr. Franchot quipped, “When people really think of it, they say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going down to the Center Market right now’, or ‘I’m going to buy the Dorchester Banner, I’m not going to get my news online.’”
The comptroller introduced Senator Eckardt, who echoed the sentiments of Mr. Franchot, urging people to come out and visit their local stores, pointing out the unique things available in Simmons Market, “the home made sausage, gift baskets, penny candy,” and thanked the Travers family for keeping up a local tradition of a fine hometown market.
Ricky Travers thanked everyone for coming to the pop-up” event at the store, noting that Simmons Market was celebrating its 80th year this year, and had recently been inducted into the Maryland Food Industry Hall of Fame by the Maryland Retailers Association.
“Imagine Giant Supermarkets getting the award one year, and Simmons Market getting it the next, said the comptroller. “That’s got to be really cool.”
“I’m proud to say I’m part of this community during this festive time,” said Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley. “This (market) has been an anchor for the city of Cambridge for all of my life, and I’m proud to let the world and the community know that Simmons Center Market—or ‘Jimmy Simmons’ as I used to call it—has been here for 80 years and hopefully will continue for many more years to come.”
From Simmons Market, the comptroller traveled to the other side of Cambridge to the Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture company’s manufacturing facility on Chesapeake Drive, where the company has opened a pop-up shop where locals can pick up oysters for the holidays, both shucked and in the shell. Co-owners Ricky Fitzhugh and Johnny Shockley met the comptroller and his entourage and gave a tour of the facility.
In the warehouse there, Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture builds oyster hatchery equipment and ships it across the country and around the world to companies engaging in oyster growing. One pile of floating docks were finished and awaiting shipment to a company in California, and a set of oyster-growing cages was on its way to Australia.
“Oyster aquaculture is exploding everywhere,” said Johnny Shockley, “and we’re proud be to on the forefront with our equipment.”
“This is a prime example of where success can lead a local company,” said Peter Franchot.
The next stop was to a perennial local success story, RAR Brewing in downtown Cambridge. Mr. Franchot is very close to the brewing companies in the state, as he’s been working hard to reform antiquated state laws that have restricted the growth of breweries across Maryland.
The comptroller’s Reform on Tap Act of 2018 is hoping to eliminate limits on sales from taprooms and for take-home consumption for the state’s breweries.
“Local breweries across that state have been very successful, but our laws and regulatory framework have stood in the way of even greater success,” the comptroller said. “Reform on Tap is going to change that situation and let the country know that Maryland is open for business, and especially open for craft breweries.”
Mr. Franchot reiterated that the Shop Local Maryland program was a statewide effort to increase awareness of the importance of patronizing local businesses. “This isn’t a partisan initiative,” the comptroller said, as he’s said before. “It’s just common sense. Stick up for your local bricks and mortar businesses, and you’ll help your local economy.”