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Whole Note Coffee officially closes

EASTON — Whole Note Coffee officially closed its doors on Sept. 24, just two years after the quaint coffee shop opened in downtown Easton.

The owners, Casey Kerins and Jesse McCue-Gomes, closed the shop for good at 1 p.m. on Friday. The couple shut the doors because their rental lease was up — and the future of the business was too uncertain to keep running.

Kerins and McCue-Gomes cited the pandemic as the main factor for choosing not to renew the lease. COVID-19 has hampered many small businesses across the country.

The wife and husband duo, who founded the store together to realize their dream of opening a coffee shop, served their last few customers before saying goodbye to a community that loved the store for its wide variety of craft coffee brews and its relaxed indoor setting.

”I was what you would call a ‘gentle’ customer, but loved what they were doing,” said Kate Richards, of Tilghman Island, when reached over Facebook. “I walked there from work quite a bit last winter when the world was all covid weird. It’s a bit sad that they (and so many other small businesses) were faced with a pandemic right at their start up.”

McCue-Gomes said he and his wife will also miss serving their many customers on The Shore. The Facebook page for Whole Note Coffee has well over 1,000 followers.

“The thing I will miss most is giving the people of Easton what I consider high quality, craft coffee,” said McCue-Gomes in a written response. “I really love talking about coffee and there have been plenty of opportunities to do that with customers to not only make sure their coffee at the shop taste great, but also at home.”

Whole Note Coffee opened in late 2019, just before the pandemic hit in March 2020. Kerins had “always wanted to open a shop on The Shore” where she had grown up, said McCue-Gomes.

“Opening a coffee shop was definitely always a part of the bigger dream we had to serve the community,” he said. “We’ve always been community focused, and always will be even after we close our doors.”

The coffee shop located off South Washington Street was not the first to open up in downtown Easton, but it immediately attracted a loyal base and became a popular destination because of its homey atmosphere.

At first, McCue-Gomes said business was extremely good. The shop was growing almost 20% every month, and Whole Note Coffee was serving hundreds of customers a week.

Popular items at the coffee joint included chai latte and the brown sugar spice latte, a unique mixture of cardamom syrup, brown sugar, espresso and milk with a topping of cinnamon, either hot or cold.

McCue-Gomes and his wife ran the shop with the help of one full-time employee and one part-time employee.

During the pandemic, the biggest challenge was “the onus put on businesses to make decisions on their own during the pandemic with little to no help,” McCue-Gomes explained. This year, the rental lease on the building was up, so Kerins and McCue-Gomes knew they had to make a decision.

While the owners realize they could have kept the store open, they were questioning whether it was worth it.

“We had to choose between the uncertainty of how the world is trending currently or sign a lease for five more years,” he said. “Running your own business isn’t easy and we knew that from the get go, but running it during a pandemic was what really took the heart and soul out of it.”

On Sept. 11, the business owners announced they were closing via a Facebook post, which got 91 reactions from the community.

The couple are moving back to Pennsylvania, where they were married in 2018. Kerins landed a job at a community college, while McCue-Gomes will work remotely for Open Seas Coffee in Stevensville as the shop’s wholesale director.

McCue-Gomes said he is excited for his future, but will greatly miss the Easton community.

“Another thing I will miss is being that place where people could escape from their everyday world,” he said. “It’s not only about the cup of coffee but the atmosphere you give to people. I wanted people to leave happier than they were before they came in.”

Offshore windmills in Atlantic backed by NAACP, environmentalists

ANNAPOLIS — Environmentalists and a leading civil rights group are pushing for state approvals for proposed windmills in the Atlantic Ocean off the Ocean City coast.

The Maryland Public Service Commission is holding hearings and accepting public comments until Nov. 19 on wind energy proposals from US Wind and Orsted for new offshore renewable energy projects.

The state regulatory panel is scheduled to decide on the projects by Dec. 18.

The NAACP Maryland State Conference supports the projects contending they will help with changes in the climate and create economic opportunities for workers and minority owned businesses.

“These two projects must be part of our state’s response to climate change. Offshore wind will create good jobs and will open new economic opportunities for Minority Business Enterprises, thanks to requirements established by the General Assembly. The public strongly supports clean energy in Maryland, and we urge the Public Service Commission to approve offshore wind projects that will make us a leader in clean energy and advance environmental equity,” said Staci Hartwell, environment and climate justice chair for the NAACP Maryland state conference.

The Biden administration is more supportive of wind energy than former President Donald Trump — a vocal opponent of windmills and their own impacts on the surrounding environment and wildlife. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has also inked an agreement with his counterparts in Virginia and North Carolina to promote wind energy developments off the Atlantic coast.

Environmental and conservation groups also back the Maryland wind projects.

“Maryland is at a climate crossroads, and it’s time to take the right path to a clean-energy future. We urge the Public Service Commission to carefully review these offshore wind proposals and approve projects that can generate an enormous amount of electricity without contributing to climate change. Offshore wind energy must be a part of our state’s response to this global crisis, said Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

The Sierra Club and Chesapeake Climate Action Network also voiced support the windmill projects. The US Wind Inc. development is called Momentum Wind and would generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity. Denmark-based Orsted’s project is called Skipjack Wind 2 and would generate up to 760 megawatts of wind energy.

“We urge the people of Maryland to let the Public Service Commission know that we support offshore wind in our state. We see the impact of climate change every day – floods, wildfires, extreme weather and higher temperatures, and Maryland is one of the most vulnerable states for damage from climate change. Maryland must embrace offshore wind as part of our clean-energy effort. The Public Service Commission should move quickly to approve these two smart projects,” said Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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Judge upholds attempted murder charges in Caroline County case

DENTON — A Caroline County judge forwarded attempted murder charges to the circuit court in the case against a 20-year-old Ridgely man who allegedly tried to hit a Maryland Natural Resources Police officer with his Jeep in August.

In a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Sept. 21, Caroline District Judge Heather L. Price determined that the state had met its burden for proof to send the case against Bryan M. Missimer, 20, of Ridgely, to the circuit court. Missimer is facing charges of attempted second-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault. He also received traffic citations for attempting to elude uniformed police by failing to stop, reckless driving, negligent driving, driving on a suspended license and going 37 mph in a 25 mph.

The charges stem from a late night traffic stop gone awry in Tuckahoe State Park in Queen Anne on Aug. 24. Officer William Ruffner with the Maryland Natural Resources Police stopped Missimer’s vehicle adjacent to Tuckahoe Lake after reportedly observing him speeding.

According to the police report, Ruffner was notified by dispatch that Missimer’s driver’s license was suspended. During the preliminary hearing, Ruffner testified that when he was returning to the Jeep, he was roughly one foot away from it when he heard the vehicle shift into drive. As the vehicle accelerated, the officer reported that Missimer’s Jeep ran over his left foot, causing non-life-threatening injuries, the report said.

Ruffner, who attended the preliminary hearing using a crutch under his left arm, said that he could not confirm or deny if bones were broken or bruised and that he’s waiting on results from an MRI.

Ruffner also testified that after accelerating, the Jeep proceeded up the road and “fishtailed” around in a U-turn, then continued to accelerate toward him with the headlights shining directly at him, he said. The office told the court that he had to run and jump out of the way of Missimer’s Jeep. The police report filed after the incident stated that if Ruffner hadn’t moved quickly, he “most certainly would have been gravely injured and or killed.”

The officer wrote in his report that the Jeep drove away and wasn’t able to be located. Ruffner also indicated that Missimer and the other passenger in the vehicle were not told that they were free to leave.

The other passenger in the vehicle with Missimer at the time, who asked to remain anonymous, disputes the officer’s account and sequence of events and said that his police report was inaccurate. The woman told The Star Democrat she could not speak further about her account of that night due to the nature of the pending case.

Prosecutors in the case argued that because the vehicle “fishtailed so aggressively,” they believe it’s not out of the “realm of possibility” that Missimer had the intention to kill Ruffner, according to their statements during the preliminary hearing.

Caroline County public defender Matthew Emmick represented Missimer in the preliminary hearing and asked the court to dismiss the attempted second-degree murder charge, saying that Ruffner’s testimony “lacks credibility.” Emmick asserted that there was no evidence of an intent to kill, so the officer’s testimony doesn’t meet the state’s burden of proof.

After listening to the arguments, Judge Price ruled that Missimer did have the “apparent ability to kill him (Ruffner) with an automobile” and elected to send the matter to the circuit court.

Missimer remains in custody, held without bond.

He is set to appear in the Caroline County Circuit Court for an initial appearance on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at njones@chespub.com.

For more info: TalbotGoesPurple.org

Talbot Goes Purple

Andrew Dice Clay arrives at the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)