Happening this week around the county…

At long last, the Best Kept Secrets Tour is coming to Cecil County. Melissa Nordhoff has been offering the self-guided small business focused tours in Lancaster, Pa., for 10 years. However, a lot of her customers with local ties kept asking her to expand.

Tickets can be reserved now by calling 717-721-9409 for the Cecil-Harford County Best Kept Secrets Tour, which will run from April 26 through May 12. That $10 ticket provides special deals and extras at 23 featured businesses in North East and Rising Sun as well as Street, Forest Hill, Havre de Grace and Oxford, Pa. 

“You get a 12-page booklet with a calendar of events, coupons from each business,” Nordhoff said, noting that at each stop there are more surprises including drawings, demonstrations, games and activities. “There’s a little bit of fun at each location.”

In late February, tickets go on sale at participating businesses. The first 1,500 ticket holders also receive a goody bag. Nordhoff expects up to 2,000 tickets to be purchased.

Shoppers do not need to rush. In fact, she said shoppers are welcome to visit each location more than once during the tour calendar.

“There are wineries, jewelry makers, bakers, chocolatiers … a variety of gift shops, a tea room, creamery, antique stores, vintage and up-cycle,” Nordhoff said.

Every single tour adds new businesses and new secrets, she said, adding that she eventually, she sees Cecil County having its very own Best Kept Secrets Tour.

“It’s not about tourism,” Nordhoff said. “It’s about expanding our backyard.”

Nordhoff meets with these businesses well in advance to discuss the promotional aspect. The goal is to make each visitor “feel special,” she said, noting that at each stop, shoppers on the tour get VIP treatment.

“Most of these tickets are sold locally and people support these businesses all year long,” she said. “It’s a powerful way for them to do that.”

Speaking of support, 50 cents of each ticket will go to Cecil County CASA to aid children in the foster care system.

For more information, check out the website at bestkeptsecretstour.com.

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The eighth Dollar General store in Cecil County is open for business at 2825 North East Road in Calvert.

A grand opening celebration was held Saturday, which saw the first 50 shoppers in the door receive a $10 Dollar General gift card, and the first 200 a gift bag full of goodies.

This is the third Dollar General location with a North East address. There are also stores in Rising Sun, Elkton, Conowingo, Chesapeake City and Cecilton.

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Cecilton Mayor Joe Zang spent time in Annapolis last week, where he attended the 2018 Maryland Mayors Association winter conference, and was able to get over to a press conference at Chesapeake Brewing Company held by Comptroller Peter Franchot that touted support for his Reform on Tap Act legislation, House Bill 518.

The bill would lift restrictions on craft breweries in Maryland, and aims to make the state a national leader in craft beer.

Zang said that he supported the comptroller’s plan because of the growing popularity of craft breweries and the economic impact that they are carrying in their wake.

“We’ve seen in many places where craft breweries have opened and other business comes behind to try to capture some of their patrons,” he said. “They have the potential to make a big impact in improving troubled areas.”

Cecil County has one operating craft brewery — Firetower Farm Brewery in Colora — and at least four breweries that are nearing opening — Valhalla Brewing Co. in Cherry Hill, Bayheads Brewing Co. in Chesapeake City, and Maryland Brewing Co. and Elk River Brewing Co. in Elkton. Zang’s son, Jason, is a partner at Bayheads Brewing Co.

Among the other mayors supporting Franchot’s bill are Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan, Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley, Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor and Denton Mayor Abigail McNinch.

After the press conference, Zang and Franchot joined Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland craft brewers from across the state at the formal launch of FeBREWary, Maryland’s official month-long celebration of craft beer, at Federal House Bar & Grille in downtown Annapolis.

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Denton Spring Water is now part of Eastern Shore Coffee and Water in Salisbury. Sarah Chandler, sales manager for the company that covers the entire Delmarva Peninsula plus the Baltimore-D.C. area, said Denton’s more than 1,200 Cecil County customers were acquired with the purchase made in December. Chandler said it was a representative of Berkley Spring Water that brought the two together.

“We both use Berkley Spring Water. We had let Berkley Spring know we were looking to expand and they said Denton Spring Water was up for sale,” Chandler said, adding both companies had similar business models.

“And we are staying very close to Wilma and Charley,” she said of the Dentons, who retired last year after 43 years of business.

For now, the North East office will maintain its staff of five, with the potential for more jobs.

Chandler said the company is looking to expand its coffee business, which would require a delivery driver and a salesperson. In addition, deliveries to Wilmington, Del., may be dispatched from Perryville instead of Salisbury to save both time and cost.

“We’re having growing pains here,” she said of the Salisbury office.

For more information on coffee or water service, contact the office at 410-749-4494 or go to www.easternshorecoffee.com.

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Veterans Cable Services has named Armstrong its 2017 Veteran Employer of the Year. Founded in 1984, Veterans Cable Services aims to provide employment opportunities for in-country Vietnam War veterans. Today it still exclusively hires veterans in the technology fields.

John Piazza, co-founder, remembered Armstrong was one of his first customers to employ these veterans.

“For over four decades I have known the folks at Armstrong. Their personal commitments, as well as that of their company in support of community-based organizations, ranks them at the top of the list of communications companies,” fellow co-founder Tony Accamando said. “Supporting veteran’s causes is nothing new to Armstrong as they have always recognized the unselfish sacrifices made by our brave men and women in uniform. This award merely recognizes the obvious.”

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Early bird registration is open now for the PAWS for People Conference and annual meeting to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children, located at 1600 Rockland Road in Wilmington, Del.

This year’s conference has been titled “Healing Walks on Four Legs; The Impact of Pet Therapy” and will feature Bradford Cole, executive director of K9 First Responders Inc., a Connecticut-based critical incident mental health support organization. Cole will address the canine-human bond and its value in healing for a person who has suffered trauma.

”We are fortunate to have Brad Cole as our keynote speaker this year,” said Lynne Robinson, executive director of PAWS for People. “His experience with K9 First Responders during such recent traumatic events as the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Las Vegas massacre, will help our audience understand the true impact pet therapy can have on individuals and groups.”

Those who register by Feb. 14 pay $55. Registration gives participants a choice of four of the 15 workshops offered, along with pet-themed games, activities and crafts.

For more information, call 302-351-5622 or go to www.pawsforpeople.org/conference