- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 26, 2004

TODD’S POINT, Md. (AP) — John Lewis’ Grocery on the Eastern Shore has been a fixture of Dorchester County’s marshy Neck District for nearly 130 years.

But as with almost everything in this once-isolated area, change has come quickly, with well-off newcomers flocking to the area in recent years.

The shelves of the country store offer a glimpse of the area’s changing demographics, as the owners try to draw both the newcomers and the locals.

Boxes of 12-gauge shotgun shells now sit on an antique sewing machine. On Friday night, wine-tasting events draw 50 or 60 curious patrons, and on weekends, there is sushi in the meat case.

The new owners — Eastern Shore natives Guy and Robin Willey, and their partners, Richard and Nancy Zeidman of Montgomery County — are trying to appeal to transplants without losing the regulars.

“First and foremost are the locals; it’s their store, and that’s a given,” Mr. Willey, 41, told the Baltimore Sun. “The weekenders are just that. But if you have people who’re used to custom-cut meat or a really nice bottle of wine, a couple big-city papers on Sunday, those are people you definitely want in your store.”

Mr. Lewis, who ran the business for 57 years, still stops by every day at about 6 a.m. He and the other regulars sit and talk about the events of the day. They drink from foam coffee cups, 50 cents for short, 75 cents for long — 12 oz. and 16 oz. for the uninitiated.

“I always just gave away the coffee,” Mr. Lewis said. “But they’re younger people with good ideas. I was at the end of the line, and they’re at the beginning.”

Sherry Krewson, who has sold real estate for the past 15 years, says property values in the Neck District have doubled in the past two years, and she doesn’t see the trend slowing anytime soon.

The newcomers from Baltimore, Washington and Pennsylvania like the slow pace and are keen on the nostalgia of Mr. Lewis’ store, she says.

“People who have the money don’t really care how much it costs to buy privacy,” Miss Krewson said.

Ed Middleton, a 60-year-old retired mortgage banker from Ellicott City, Md., counts himself lucky to have been ahead of the curve. After buying 120 acres on Cook’s Point Road in 1998, he took an early retirement offer and moved to the Neck District two years later.

“People don’t realize how fast things are changing down here,” Mr. Middleton said. “They’re trying to respond to it by going a little more upscale in the store, offering more so the rest of us don’t have to go to town.”

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