During a St. Patrick’s Day tour celebrating Eastern Shore business and heritage, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot stopped in Cambridge to recognize three Race Street establishments, Black Water Bakery, The Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, and Simmons Center Market.
At Franchot’s first downtown destination, he was due to deliver a proclamation honoring Black Water Bakery owners Jamie and Brett Summers. As local officials gathered to welcome him to town, a stream of mid-afternoon customers continued arriving. Jamie, who manages the eatery’s brisk daily operations, remained in constant motion, checking on a take-out order, clearing tables and keeping an eye out for anything else needing to be attended to.
That attention to detail is just one secret ingredient in Black Water’s ongoing success as downtown’s only bakery and gourmet coffeehouse, voted 2021’s Best Bakery and Next Best Breakfast on the Eastern Shore.
Since 2015, customers have continued craving locally sourced menu items with all day breakfast and lunch, cookies, cakes, muffins, and artisan breads, even rosemary gouda scones and “from scratch” pop tarts. The beverage bar includes not only lattes, espressos, and fine teas but Bloody Marys, mimosas and wine by the glass, offering a weekend brunch ambience all week.
In presenting the proclamation, Franchot commended the Summers for their investment of both dollars and dedication to create a “beloved” eatery that’s given so much back to Cambridge.
“What you both have done, and are doing, is so important to this community,” Franchot noted. “Thank God you survived the challenges of these last few years.”
“We thank you, and we really believe in Downtown Cambridge,” Jamie said.
In December 2021, Brett and his company, NOVO Development, were also honored with a Rising Up Award from the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area.
“NOVO’s investment activities on the Eastern Shore have been focused on Downtown Cambridge, with five mixed-use commercial spaces. NOVO’s steadfast commitment to Cambridge is evident as Brett painstakingly led the restoration of these buildings to Maryland Historical Trust standards,” the award stated.
Brett reported that the ongoing renovation at nearby 421 Race Street was expected to wrap up by mid-April and will feature home furnishings shop Shore Life and six apartments.
Applauding customers who seemed to relish sharing thanks and congratulations to the couple also seemed pleased to hear Franchot announce that pain at the gas pump would soon be eased with passage of a statewide gas tax holiday made possible by a budget surplus.
On March 18, Gov. Larry Hogan signed the legislation implementing a one-month reprieve from state gas taxes.
Franchot had initially proposed a three-month holiday but expressed hope that, if needed, the benefit would be renewed. He was working with industry partners, including the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association and the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Automotive Repair Assocation, to quickly implement the law enabling motorists to realize savings as soon as possible, he added.
Next, Franchot headed across the street to commemorate the 200th birthday of Harriet Tubman, joining artist Michael Rosato at the now iconic Take My Hand Mural adorning the outer wall behind the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center.
Thanking Rosato for helping create so meaningful a tribute, Franchot later placed his hand upon the one Tubman is reaching out with in the larger-than-life portrait. It’s a ritual that’s been performed by thousands who have made pilgrimage to the site from across the state, the nation and world.
As Franchot headed inside the museum, Rosato, a self-taught artist, discussed details of the mural’s creation, including his process for first sketching the portrait in pencil. Originally, he’d planned to have Tubman’s eyes looking off toward the museum but was advised that having her face forward would help draw people more powerfully into the picture.
Especially pleased to help make an impact on young people, his most recent project includes creating a Jr. Ranger booklet for the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York, Tubman’s home during her later years and final resting spot.
Most of Rosato’s prolific large-scale works are painted inside his 412 Race Street studio, including other Chesapeake Mural Trail creations, Big Bird at J.M. Clayton’s Seafood, Goose on the Creek at the Powell Real Estate Caboose off Maryland Avenue, the Waterman’s Mural at the Visitor’s Center, and the African American Mural paying homage to Cambridge’s Pine Street and Black History where Rt. 50 meets Maryland Avenue. He’s also helped capture historical legacies with murals in Vienna, East New Market and Hurlock.
Other Shore pictorial tributes include Frederick Douglass in Easton and seafood workers in Crisfield, but Rosato murals are also displayed at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, Texas Motor Speedway and Texas Ranger’s Ballpark, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Museum, and VMI Institute.
Franchot next stopped into one of downtown’s most enduring family enterprises, Simmons Center Market at 600 Race Street. There he greeted owners Ricky and Rosi Travers, before making sure to buy a jar of Old Time Barrel Molasses, a favorite he makes it a point to purchase annually.
Congratulating the couple on continuing to thrive as a favorite downtown cornerstone business, the comptroller enjoyed chatting about spring offerings at the market’s adjoining greenhouse and gift shop. They also discussed news vital to the area including the guest visa shortage crisis affecting watermen and the surrounding community (Travers is Dorchester County’s District 3 Council representative).
Unfazed by the comptroller and accompanying entourage of area dignitaries, a steady stream of loyal customers continued shopping. One man with a huge bag of frozen fries tucked under one arm politely but purposely interrupted the group momentarily to access a sought after Tastykake apple pie, which Franchot graciously offered to add to his own molasses order. Several officials were also seen reaching for their own shopping baskets, perusing the fresh meat and cheese counters along the back wall, plus old-time candy selections featured up front.
Begun in 1937 by Ricky’s grandparents, Jimmy and Elizabeth, the market was recognized as a Dorchester County Heritage Business in 2018, with these words, “The family-run business is one of the oldest, continuously running grocery stores on the Eastern Shore, and many of the customers have been coming there since they were small children, accompanied by their parents, who, in turn, were accompanied by their parents.”
One of the couples’ sons, Ricky Travers Jr., during a brief stop between his regular trucking operation duties, joined his parents in welcoming the comptroller. He was all smiles as he expressed tremendous pride in being the fourth generation involved in keeping the market’s legacy going strong.