Happening this week around the county …

After more than 40 years in business, Hunter's Sale Barn at 2040 Jacob Tome Highway near Port Deposit is changing hands.

"It's kind of a bittersweet thing," said Norman Hunter, who with his wife, Carol, and their family have run the salvage store, flea market and Monday night auctions. "Forty-four years has been a long time."

Hunter has until the end of this year to make the transition to new owner Nick Thrappas. The president of ARC Construction Services, based in Washington, D.C., bought the property for $1.3 million.

"We're having a fall clearance and we will have the Christmas auction the second Saturday in November," Hunter said. The last of his large scale suppliers are delivering final loads including Lowe's, Amazon and BJ's.

Thrappas will continue the flea market and the store. However, the store will be scaled down to a convenience style business with snacks and drinks.

"I'm going to renovate the barn," Thrappas said. The building to the rear of the store will get a new roof and additional square footage."

There are plans to construct a more permanent outdoor structure for flea market vendors to provide cover without having to set up canopies, he added.

"I'm definitely going to be adding jobs," he said.

Hunter said the sale goes to closing Oct. 5. 

"I'm happy I got it sold," he said, noting the sadness in his own voice. However he won't be leaving the area.

"Sleepy Hollow is my home," he said, referring to the farm next door.

•••

You might notice some of the changes Isabel Hernandez has been making since she took over Spork Cafe, Bakery and Market on West Main Street in Elkton.

The walls are a different color including bright orange, and one wall is now a gallery with space available for more local artists. Hernandez already has her work there from her side business, Iszy's Photography. If you look closely you'll see the word "Art" peeks out from her logo too.

She got help from the folks next door at Brookbend Interiors, which decorated her shop windows. Other local connections include Kilby Cream Ice Cream from Rising Sun and Chesapeake Gold Cheese from North East. Have ice cream or a milk shake, or enjoy the mac-n-cheese made by Chef Stephanie Smith.

"I have 30 years of experience, mainly in Cecil County," Smith said, listing off The Granary, Schaefer's Canal House and The Bayard House on her cooking resume.

Hernandez' background is in franchise restaurants.

"So I know how to put systems and routines in place and how to serve people great food in a reasonable time period," Hernandez said.

Most notable is the ability to order lunch online and pick it up, or have it ready upon your arrival.

"We realize people have maybe 20 to 40 minutes from work. We don't want them to have to wolf it down," she said. "That's why we use online ordering."

Open for breakfast Tuesday through Friday at 8 a.m. and closing those days at 3 p.m., Spork Cafe also serves breakfast on weekends from 8:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. Hernandez said these hours would probably expand as the customer base picks up.

"Our jumbo croissant sandwich is very popular for breakfast," she said. Soups and grilled cheese have fans from the lunch menu. "We also have a honey chicken salad sandwich that's very good."

Spork Cafe, Bakery and Market is available for private parties, along with catering for your next event. Call 443-593-3775 or send Hernandez an email to sporkcbm@gmail.com. You can also find more information on the Spork Cafe Facebook page.

•••

"We are excited to welcome yet another new business to our downtown area," said Rising Sun Mayor Travis Marion, moments before the ribbon was cut on The Art Den LLC. 

Chriztie Kaufmann, co owner of the business on South Queen Street, had the official scissors in hand with Bri Weidner, her business partner, holding onto the red ribbon.

"This is a dream becoming a reality," Marion said.

Anne Marie Gonzalez agreed, although since she's Kaufmann's grandmother who would expect less?

"I think it's awesome. The town really needed something like this," Gonzalez said. "It's family-friendly and there's all these events planned."

The first class to be offered — intro to throwing pottery — was sold out long before its Saturday morning debut. However, at the Friday night ribbon cutting there were several opportunities to be creative including painting rocks, drawing on tiles and participating in a mural creation of the wall of the art studio.

To find out more about The Art Den, its class schedule and drop in studio opportunities call 443-967-3663, check out the Facebook page or go online to theartdenllc.com

•••

According to Jessica Alexander, the bar is set high for Cecil County's breweries.

"People drinking craft beer expect craft food," Alexander recently told the Cecil County Board of License Commissioners. "Craft beer is not a bar."

Alexander and her business partner, Scott McCardell continue to search for a way to get the Cecil County liquor board to allow Maryland Beer Company to have children inside its doors at 601 North Bridge Street.

"We are turning 7 to 10 families away to Delaware each week," Alexander said. She and McCardell are asking the board to define a fully functional kitchen, arguing that the liquor board and the Cecil County Health Department appear to have opposing opinions. Maryland Beer Company has health department approval but not liquor board approval of its kitchen.

Jason Allison, the attorney for the liquor board, said the board does not want children exposed to inebriated adults. Alexander countered that would not happen at Maryland Beer Company.

"We don't get people in search of the $2 special on Bud Light," she said. "We have a very high-end clientele. I encourage you to come out and see we are family-friendly, if you can get families in."

Allison suggested the pair return to a future meeting with a conceptual menu to show the liquor board its intentions.

•••

Having lost its lease The Waffle House in North East closed Monday. Employees were called in to work early in the morning and given the news.

"The employees were offered jobs at other Waffle Houses," said Pat Warner, spokesman for the Georgia-based chain.

The North East location on US Route 40 opened in July 1999. Waffle Houses in Elkton and Havre de Grace are not affected, Warner said Tuesday.

Business Beat is a weekly column on business happenings in and around Cecil County. If interested in having your business featured in this column, contact Jane Bellmyer at jbellmyer@cecilwhig.com or 443-245-5007.

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