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James Rada, Jr.

Morris Blake spent decades working in security with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service, Francis Scott Key Mall, Frederick County, and Mount St. Mary’s; but, last year, he turned in his badge to become a hair stylist and has never been happier.

Blake, who turns fifty-seven this year, has lived in Thurmont all of his life.

“I live in the same house they brought me home from the hospital to,” Blake said.

He started working for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a ranger at Cunningham Falls when he was twenty-two years old.

One incident he remembers from this time is when he and his training officers approached a man near the dam, who was sitting on the pipe hole. They saw that he had weapons in his vehicle, and they convinced the man to come up from where he was sitting to talk to them.

The man was depressed, but cooperative. When the training officer asked if it would be all right to check the man’s weapons, the man reached into the vehicle, pulled out his shotgun, and racked it.

“They didn’t give up bulletproof vests, but I tell you, every day after that, I wore one,” recalled Blake.

Although this man proved to be harmless, Blake realized that he could easily have been shot, so he went and bought his own bulletproof vest to wear from then on.

After seven years with the State of Maryland, he moved across the road to become a ranger with the Mounted Horse Patrol at Catoctin Mountain Park. He enjoyed working with the horses, in particular, giving rides to handicapped children who came to the park. However, tightening budgets cost the park its two horses, Jimmy and Commander, who were sent to work at the St. Louis Arch National Park.

So Blake moved on to mall security at Francis Scott Key Mall. He found himself moving up quickly in rank (although his duties and pay remained the same). When he asked Director of Security Gary Wood about it, he was told that it was because he was reliable and could be trusted.

When Wood retired, Blake became the director and realized why his work ethic had been rewarded. The younger officers couldn’t be trusted to keep working without supervision. They would goof off or flirt with girls. This meant that Blake wound up working long hours to supervise them. “I became director of security, but the work was sun up to sun down, and I couldn’t take it any longer.”

Blake then served one year in security at the Mount before landing a job with Frederick County at Winchester Hall. Not too surprisingly, the politics of the place seeped down, even to his department, until he could no longer tolerate it. He left after ten years. “I gave up the badge and came to the clippers.”

He decided to become a hair stylist because he wanted a job that would allow him to work with the public and give back to them. He attended school to earn his license and became a barber and stylist at Here’s Clyde’s in Thurmont in March 2016.

He explained that three of the women at Here’s Clyde’s he grew up with, and he looks at all of them as if they were his sisters. He also enjoys seeing people walk into the salon that he hasn’t seen for years.

Besides working in security, he was an organist at the Grotto in Emmitsburg for ten years before becoming the music director at the Fort Detrick Post Chapel, which he has done for the past four years. While the security jobs have been work, the music work has been a labor of love.

Blake doesn’t regret any of the jobs he has done because he learned from all of them. Even when the jobs were wearing him down, he stayed happy for the most part. He continues to be happy with a short walk to and from his job and being able to spend time with friends, new and old.

Morris Blake is shown at Here’s Clyde’s in Thurmont, where he works as a  barber and hair stylist.

Deb Spalding

Husband and wife duo, Sharon and Russ Rowland of Woodsboro operate two glass businesses out of the former CVS store space in the Thurmont Plaza on North Church Street in Thurmont. Sharon operates Art In Glass and Russ operates Rowland Glass Studios. The couple moved the businesses into the space from Frederick in February 2017.

Sharon was a registered nurse when she took her first stained glass class in 1978, and she has been doing it ever since. By 1986, she had turned the hobby into a full-time career from her basement. The business was moved several times over the years, and when the economy shrunk in 2009, the business shrunk with it. Since then, the glass business has grown and they’ve adjusted.

Russ left a lawn care business when he met his wife and fell right into the glass business. He went to work for a custom glass company and ran that until 2014 when the opportunity to purchase the business was presented. Rowland Glass Studios was born.

Sharon’s Art in Glass business completes commissioned stained glass projects and various special artistic techniques for commercial and residential decorative glass use or for gallery pieces and jewelry.

Since 1998, Rowland Glass Studios has been creating elegant, custom-etched tempered, laminated and annealed architectural design in glass. The Rowlands do just about anything to decorate glass and mirrors from sand blasted printed film, efficiency film, security film, or reflective film applied for decoration as well as providing other benefits like reducing heat, adding security, and controlling light. Russ said, “Architectural glass has the power to transform a space from ordinary to extraordinary.” It’s also a popular alternative to tiles and laminates.

The artistic effects are applied to different types of glass, but it doesn’t interfere with integrity of the glass. New edge-lit signs introduce light from bottom or sides creating unique effects. The Rowlands recently completed a job where edge-lighting was used in conjunction with dichroic film—looks one color one way and another color the other way—to mimic the Northern Lights. Dichroic film was developed for NASA to reflect light and heat in space shuttles. The film was quickly recognized as a material that could be effectively used in glass.

Russ said, “We start with a sheet of clear glass and then sand blast it and put effects on it. We take it from the beginning to a finished product.”

Fused glass and glass blowing are Sharon’s passions. She just finished a class in a new three-dimensional technique that allows you to have glass without an opening. The technique was invented by a professor in Philadelphia.

Sharon gave a tour of the new shop, offices, and gallery showroom. In the showroom, she is displaying pieces for purchase that are cute and “kitschy” like bottle cheese boards, jewelry, paw prints, dishes, and paper weights.

You can view completed Rowland projects at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the McGowan Center at Mount St. Mary’s University, in bus shelters in Arlington, Virginia, and in private residences throughout the region.

For more information about Art In Glass or Rowland Glass Studios, please visit their showroom, offices, and workshop in the Thurmont Plaza Shopping Center at 224 A West Church Street in Thurmont, call 240-568-9135, or visit

Pictured are Russ and Sharon Rowland, owners of Art In Glass and Rowland Glass Studio in Thurmont.

Town of Thurmont commissioners Wayne Hooper and Marty Burnes (far left), and Wes Hamrick and Bill Buehrer (far right) are pictured with Mayor John Kinnaird and Taylor Huffman (center) during the grand opening of her Long & Foster office at 3 W. Main Street in Thurmont.

Photo by Grace Eyler

Long & Foster Real Estate is pleased to announce that it opened a new office in Thurmont on May 20, 2017. Located at 3 W. Main Street, the office is led by Taylor Huffman and will be managed by Jackie Sellers, branch manager of the Frederick office.

“Long & Foster is committed to growing our presence in Maryland, and the opening of the Thurmont office allows us to increase our footprint and better serve home buyers and sellers throughout the area,” said Cindy Ariosa, senior regional vice president of Long & Foster Real Estate. “Additionally, having a leader like Taylor, who was raised in Thurmont, provides us with a unique understanding of the local market and the needs of its residents.”

Huffman, who has been a real estate agent for six years, will be joined at the office by three additional Long & Foster agents. She is a top-producing agent, a member of the Long & Foster Gold Team, and sold more than $8 million in real estate volume in 2016. In 2012, she was named Long & Foster Rookie of the Year. Huffman is a member of the Frederick County Association of Realtors.

“I’m thrilled to be launching this new Long & Foster office and leading a team of agents who will be supported with the best training, tools, and technology available,” Huffman said. “Long & Foster is a company that puts its agents and clients first, and I saw a need to bring the services the company offers to Thurmont and the surrounding area. We’re excited and ready to put our skills to work in the local community.”

The Thurmont office is a direct result of Long & Foster’s Elite Entrepreneur Platform, which allows agents to build their own business while aligning with the No. 1 private residential real estate company in the United States.

“Opening this new office aligns with Long & Foster’s plan to expand our ability to provide unparalleled customer service to our buyers and sellers,” said Gary Scott, president of Long & Foster Real Estate. “We have no doubt that the new Thurmont office will be the go-to resource when consumers in this area of Maryland are looking to make confident, well-informed buying and selling decisions.”

Huffman grew up on a 350-acre farm in Thurmont, which helped her cultivate a hard-work ethic from a young age. She has experience in all types of real estate, especially in the sale of land and farms, and she is a member of the Maryland Agricultural Commission, helping the state connect with farmers. In her spare time, Huffman works alongside her husband, Brandon, on their family farm, Lawyer’s Winterbrook Farm. For more information, visit

James Rada, Jr.

Emmitsburg now has a new place to visit where you can watch a magic show or buy a book. Magician Michael Cantori has opened Cantori’s Theatre of Magic at 24 West Main Street in Emmitsburg.

“We’re going to have a performing space for parlor magic shows, which are smaller shows for groups smaller than thirty people. People used to hold small shows in their parlors for their friends and acquaintances,” Cantori said. He believes that these smaller shows are more interactive.

Cantori envisions the store being an after-dinner destination for people eating at one of Emmitsburg’s restaurants, and also hopes to attract visitors from Gettysburg and Ski Liberty.

Cantori will also have a used bookstore sharing the space with the performance area. “It is a general-use bookstore with material that focuses on magic, philosophy, mythology, literature, and local interest,” he said.

In addition, Cantori will also offer instruction in magic and illusion, although the store will not be selling magic tricks. “We’ll have more of a focus on the art of magic and develop the needed skills sets to perform tricks.” He explained that he could do an hour show with just card tricks, and it is those sleight-of-hand skills that new magicians need to develop first as they learn to perform tricks.

The combination of magic theatre and used bookstore may seem unusual, but it is a combination that Cantori embodies. Not only is he a master illusionist, but he has owned used bookstores in the past. He sees the store as something that will anchor him more in the community so that he won’t have to travel as much for his performances.

“It is fulfilling to become an active part of the community,” expressed Cantori.

Store hours are limited right now. As the store finds its audience and the need for shows grow, so will the store hours.

You can find out more about the store at and you can call the store at 301-447-3400 to find out the current store hours.








Michael Cantori, owner of Cantori’s Theatre of Magic in Emmitsburg.

Photo by Deb Spalding

It’s been a while since Terry Miller visited his hometown, but Thurmont is never far from his thoughts. He will be in town at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, 2017, to sign copies of his book The Mountain Beyond and to take a walk down memory lane, at the Thurmont Visitors Center on Water Street.

“It’s a memoir of a young boy growing up in small-town America in the 40s and 50s,” Miller said.

He lives in Texas now, but he grew up in Thurmont until he joined the Air Force in 1958. He used to live where the old Creeger Flower Shop used to be located on Old Frederick Road.

“I grew up with a lot of adversity,” Miller said. “I wanted to turn it into something positive. The book has a lot of ponders and life’s lessons learned and humor.”

His purpose in writing this book was to leave something of value that may touch other people, so they, too, can grow through times of trials. Miller’s sense of humor shines throughout the book, as he finds life can be fun in the midst of the troubling times.

It has been six years since Miller visited Thurmont, and he is returning for his 60th class reunion, a member of the Thurmont High School Class of 1957.

“I have a lot of fond memories of Thurmont,” Miller recalled. “I grew up during a time when doors were never locked, one signal light guided traffic, and the one-man police force went to bed at 8:00 p.m.”

Terry’s goal in conducting a book signing while in town for his high school reunion is to not only talk about recapturing life when times were simpler, but to be a part of the Creeger House preservation. He will be donating $5.00 from every book sale to the “Save the Creeger House Fund.”

During his presentation, Miller will be discussing three ways to learn from the past, so you can leave something of value as part of your legacy.

Following his talk, a tour of the Creeger house will be conducted to show the deteriorating condition of the house. People will be able to see first-hand why the historical society is seeking donations to help pay for the needed repairs.

If $30,000 is raised, the Maryland Historical Trust will provide a matching $30,000 grant. The original portion of the house is a log cabin built in the 1920s by Col. John Rouzer, a state senator and Civil War soldier.

As Miller said, “Preservation is a key part of our heritage. Each of us needs to learn from our past, so we can see the value of making our contribution.”

Deb Spalding

Johnny S. Hollinger of Emmitsburg purchased a raffle ticket a few months ago from Lauri Harley at the Ott House Pub to support the Catoctin Safe and Sane Class of 2017. The Ott House often sells raffle tickets to help out various community groups, and Johnny often buys one or two to show his community support. He never dreamed he’d win a new car, especially not a Chevy!

You see, Johnny is a former Ford dealer. His family owned the Sperry Ford Sales dealership in Emmitsburg for about sixty-five years. The business was located at 130 South Seton Avenue, which is now owned by W.S. Drywall.

Johnny’s Aunt Ada (Hollinger) Sperry owned the dealership with her husband, Ralph. Johnny’s father, John J. Hollinger, worked at the dealership. Formerly from Hagerstown, John visited Emmitsburg while representing a Studebaker company in Hagerstown to help Sperry introduce the Model A Ford in 1927. He was supposed to be in town for just three days, but stayed for the rest of his life. He met his future wife, Pauline Havner, who was in Emmitsburg working for her uncle, M.G. Keilholtz, owner of the Palm Lunch Restaurant. Pauline was from the Woodsboro, Maryland, area.

Starting in 1950 selling parts, Johnny sold Fords at Sperry’s. He also sold Ford chassis, used for fire trucks, to local fire departments. Both Johnny and his father served Emmitsburg’s Vigilant Hose Company in the roles of chief and president at different times. Both achieved life membership in the department. Johnny has been involved now for seventy years at Vigilant.

The Sperry Ford Sales dealership was closed in 1988, when it was sold to a former Redskin football player named George Starke. Starke moved the Ford business to Thurmont after running it in Emmitsburg for two years.

Johnny is still a devout Ford ambassador, having sold them for thirty-eight years. The irony of a Ford man winning a Chevy is legend.

Johnny admitted, “I knew I’d take a lot of flack from friends and family about winning a Chevy.” He did drive the Chevy home.

Johnny (John S.) Hollinger is pictured next to his Frederick County Fire & Rescue Hall of Fame Certificate and a photo of his father, John J. Hollinger, at the Vigilant Hose Company.

Wild Song Farm operates on a historic property known as Father’s Farewell on Moser Road in Thurmont. In 1738, the farm was part of the 500-acre Taylor’s Lot, owned by Johann Jacob Weller. Fifty acres were later passed to his stepson, John Henry Firor, who is believed to have built the beautiful stone home on the property, from 1765 to 1780. The property earned its name, Father’s Farewell, when son John Leonard Firor inherited it from his father, who moved west. The farm stayed in the Firor family until about 1872.

Since then, the farm has seen a dairy operation, beef cattle, sawmill and woodshop, horses, and even a goldfish-growing operation. Since 2015, when Thomas and Nicole Luttrell purchased the property, they have been preparing a farm business called Wild Song Farm. The name is appropriate because of the music of nature heard every day on the farm—song birds, frogs, and crickets. After big storms, you can hear Big Hunting Creek roar. Lately, the sound of clucking chickens and quacking ducks can also be heard.

Thomas grew up in Frederick and Nicole grew up in the Poconos, Pennsylvania. They met while attending Washington College on the Eastern Shore. Thomas studied economics, and Nicole studied biology and chemistry. While in school, they became interested in growing food and learning how to be self-sufficient. They both worked for a successful small produce farm called Colchester Farm, where they were part of the strong local food movement in Chestertown, Maryland.

After graduating, the couple moved to Frederick. Thomas worked for Hometown Harvest, a home delivery service for local food, while Nicole worked for the Frederick County Office of Sustainability, helping homeowners get energy-efficiency upgrades. She then worked with Ecologia Design, installing edible landscapes. Nicole still offers design and consultation services for edible and natural landscapes and homesteads through her business Deeply Rooted Design (

On the farm, Thomas tends to take charge of the machines and animals, and Nicole tends to take charge of the produce and business management. They come together for many projects and to develop plans for the future. There are many reasons why the Luttrells decided to start a farm. The main reason was for their own health. They wanted to be in control of the food they eat. They also wanted to become more self-sufficient.

Nicole said, “It seems that so many skills are being lost. Farming has pushed us to learn about a very wide range of subjects. Not just plants and animals, but machines, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and business management. We’re very excited about the possibilities of agriculture and all of the opportunities for innovation.”

While their current focus is on short-term crops like eggs and produce, they are also working on establishing some long-term crops like shiitake mushrooms grown on logs, unique and disease-resistant fruits such as paw paws, and even nut crops such as hazelnuts and Chinese chestnuts.

Another aspect of the farm that is very important to the Luttrells is connecting with the local community. There is something very special about knowing where our food comes from, and knowing the farmer who grows it. Thomas said, “We love this property because it is tucked right into Thurmont, a short walk to the library and to the trolley trail that leads to Main Street. We are surrounded by neighborhoods, including Jermae Estates just up Moser Road. There are many farmers that understandably drive to the D.C. area to sell produce, where there are more people and higher prices. But for us, we really want to feed the local people and do our part to help Thurmont’s local economy grow. And what better place to do it than a farm so close to town?”

The Luttrells have a flock of about 130 chickens living out of a big coop on a hay wagon that is moved around on pasture and through their gardens to do soil prepping. They make their own soy-free, non-GMO feed with local grain to ensure quality and freshness. They have a small flock of ducks that free range in their yard. They are currently selling eggs from the farm, and the eggs are also sold at The Lion Potter Market in Gettysburg.

They grow produce using organic practices, building rich and healthy soil. It’s important to the Luttrells that their soil is rich in nutrients and minerals, which then are passed into the food that customers eat. This year, they will grow a variety of greens, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash, melons, garlic, winter squash, and shiitake mushrooms.

If you want to see a show, stop by and watch them cut and bale fifty-pound round bales of hay with a walk-behind two-wheel tractor, hay rake, and baler. They use that hay for chicken bedding and composting, and plan to start selling it this year.

Their farm stand will open soon, starting Saturday, May 13, at 13720 Moser Road. Expect Saturday and Sunday hours at the start of the season, with some weekday hours added as they move into summer. Eggs, produce, baked goods, and plants are available for sale. They are looking into offering some specialty items for sale from other local farms as well. Stop by their stand on Saturday, May 27, during Thurmont’s Sip N’ Stroll event for a special “buy two dozen, get one free” on eggs. Customers can also enter their names in a drawing for a $20.00 gift certificate.

Customers can call or text an order to 240-405-7622, email, or just stop by the farm.

For more information, visit or check them out on Facebook at

James Rada, Jr.

For entertainment, Emmitsburg resident Rick Oleszczuk, along with his wife, Erin, and children, were once trapped in an underground playground in Nashville. They barely escaped, and decided that they had so much fun that they wanted to trap other people. That’s why they opened Escape Gettysburg.

“We didn’t want to do it at first, but then we talked about it for days afterwards,” Rick said of his family’s experience in the Nashville escape room.

Back in Emmitsburg, he and his wife started talking about opening one. They decided on Gettysburg because of its nearness to their home, its large number of tourists, and its limited indoor entertainment offerings.

They rented the old Department of Motor Vehicles space at 59 N. Fifth Street in Gettysburg, and opened with two escape rooms in March. By summer, they should have four rooms open.

For those unfamiliar with escape rooms, a group of people are locked in a room that has been designed around a theme. The group that I was part of was locked in a room called the Mad Hatter’s Tea Parlor. It was a Victorian room with a fireplace, furniture, unusual pictures, and odd clocks. We had one hour to find and decipher clues and to work our way through a series of surprises, in a race against time. The pressure to find a way to unlock the door builds as the time we had to free ourselves vanished.

However, my group also laughed, got frustrated, and cheered when we solved a tough clue. When the locked door finally popped open, with less than ten minutes to spare, everyone felt a great sense of success and accomplishment.

The other rooms include: the wizard’s chamber, where you must unravel the clues to escape the room before the head wizard returns; and museum heist, where the group is attempting to steal the Gettysburg Address from a museum before the police arrive. You are given an hour to escape the room, and not every team is successful.

“Our rooms tend to be more challenging than some of the escape rooms that are part of a chain,” Rick said.

The rooms are designed to hold eight to ten people, although larger groups can be accommodated. Participants should be at least thirteen years old to be able to fully participate in the adventure.

“We’ve already had some return customers. We had one group come in for a birthday party, and they had so much fun, they came back the next weekend to do the other room!”

Escape Rooms are great family activities, but businesses also use them as a team-building exercise.

Escape Gettysburg is a family-run business. Even the Oleszczuk children—Noah, Ella, and Eva—participate in the business. They either act as greeters or game masters. Game masters monitor the progress of the trapped people, and may give them hints from time to time about how to escape.

If you would like more information and/or you would like to schedule your ‘escape’ at Escape Gettysburg, visit the website at or call 717-769-5397.

We all have energy! Some days, we may feel so energetic that we’re ready to rule the world! Most of the time, though, the number of days that we may feel tired and ready for a nap far outnumber our energetic days.

Did you know that our body has energy centers called chakras, energy centers within the human body that help to regulate all its processes, from organ function to the immune system? A Reiki practitioner is like an electrician who fixes our body’s chakras by lightly laying hands on us in areas that are near our chakras, to help heal and cleanse them. During a Reiki session, clients may experience warm sensations, tingling, and visually “see” different colors. Everyone’s experience is different, but all will agree that Reiki is relaxing and can be healing and often life-changing.

Benefits can include a deep feeling of relaxation, reduced blood pressure, reduced anxiety, diminished migraine pain, less depression, better sleep, increased energy levels, relief from chronic pain, less arthritic discomfort, and relief from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Reiki can also help release the toxins from the artificial foods we eat in our average diet.

Sounds a bit like a hoax to some, right? Heather Heier of Thurmont has been helped by the power of Reiki. When she experienced a tragic death in her life, she went through the process of grief and it changed her to the core. She wandered to find her life’s purpose. She had her “ahha” moment while taking Reiki classes. She liked Reiki so much that she decided to become a Reiki practitioner. “Trying to find myself, I found Reiki, and when I found Reiki, I found myself.” Her purpose is to help other people, and she wants to give back. She named her Reiki business Harmony Healing. “This is what I’m meant to do.”

Heather explained, “We’re all in the middle of life—we’re stressed, we’re overstimulated, and life experiences have damaged our chakras. We feel sick, tired, and in pain. A chakra may be connected to those feelings, but we can’t see it.”

One of Heather’s clients went to the doctor several times over the course of several years. She was always told that there was nothing wrong. After trying a Reiki session, the client’s symptoms decreased, and after another session, went away entirely.

During a Reiki session, your clothes remain on, you lay face up, or sit, in a comfortable space, covered with a snuggly blanket. Heather doesn’t know, or inquire about, your health history, ailments, or symptoms. Since Reiki is divine, it is the relaying of healing energy for you from your divine light (YOUR divine energy source). The light repairs the chakra and fills the holes. Heather is the conduit for that to happen. She doesn’t claim to be a healer, but Reiki opens the power of healing. She will not manipulate your body in any physical way. There will be a lot of healing taking place that you just can’t see. After a session, you will be relaxed, and healing will have taken place. There is never an obligation to have additional sessions.

Heather describes a Reiki session as your “energy makeover.” Harmony Healing is located inside the new Center of Life Holistic Center offices on Park Lane in Thurmont. To book your session, which usually lasts about an hour, visit, email, or call Heather at 301-418-8842. View Harmony Healing’s advertisement on page 40.

Anita DiGregory

On Monday, February 27, 2017,  Maryland and town of Thurmont officials proudly welcomed Playground Specialists, Inc., to the community with a grand opening celebration which included an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Playground Specialists, Inc., a full-service recreation company owned and operated by Jeff Barber, is a dynamic company, specializing in assisting clients with all commercial park and playground needs, including sales, design, and installation. At the welcome ceremony, many local leaders were on hand, including Frederick County Office of Economic Development Director Helen Propheter, Frederick County Council President Bud Otis, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter, Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird, Thurmont Commissioner Bill Buehrer, Thurmont Public Works Department Superintendent Butch West, and Thurmont Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick. All in attendance were happy to welcome this thriving company, and Barber and his staff, into their new headquarters on Apples Church Road.

Although Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was not in attendance at the ceremony, he stated, “Ensuring hard-working citizens in every region of the state have access to new job opportunities is a top priority of our administration. Playground Specialists is a homegrown company, and it is welcome news that they are continuing to grow and add jobs right here in Maryland.”

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner remarked, “I am delighted that Playground Specialists is growing in Frederick County. We are proud that a local company has become a major supplier in the Mid-Atlantic, and continues to add jobs for our workforce.”

Founded by Barber in 1998, Playground Specialists, Inc. has continued to grow to become one of the largest outdoor recreational furniture distributors on the East Coast. Barber began installing commercial playgrounds in 1994.  Originally employing only himself and one other installer, Barber’s staff has flourished to more than thirty employees, and he hopes to be adding more in the future.  Playground Specialists, Inc. currently serves Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

With regards to the company’s recent expansion, Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill stated, “The fact that Playground Specialists is continuing to expand its service area, and will more than double its sales, shows its tremendous potential for growth.  Playground Specialists is one of many small businesses that are choosing to expand in Maryland, and we are pleased to work with our county partners to ensure these companies remain in the state.”

At one time run from home, the company headquarters is now housed in a spacious and innovative 21,000-square-foot facility in Thurmont. In addition to accommodating a vast warehouse and offices, the newly constructed facility also houses a conference room and large training space to host presentation and training seminars. The company has more than twelve certified playground safety inspectors, an in-house design team, sales support staff, and three full-time installation crews.

With the motto “We work hard, so you can play,” Barber and his staff take pride in designing recreational areas and installing equipment to meet the needs of the community, while providing a safe, fun place to visit and play.

Working with local governments, schools, churches, recreation departments, homeowner associations, and more, Playground Specialists, Inc., has become a leader in the industry. Handling everything from start to finish in-house, the company provides state-of-the-art recreational elements, including surfacing, playground equipment, and site amenities, such as shade structures, pavilions, benches, and trash receptacles.

In Thurmont, Playground Specialists, Inc. is responsible for the 2016 Thurmont Elementary School playground, and is currently completing the East End Park Inclusive Playground. With two inclusive play specialists on staff, the company has worked with the town and the Catoctin Area Civitan Club to design and install this unique playground for children with all abilities. Features of the park include full wheelchair access, innovative structures for children of all abilities and challenges, rubber surfacing, and a shaded canopy. With the first phase nearly complete, two additional phases to the park are in the works. Playground Specialists, Inc. is very happy to play such an integral role in this innovative park, one of the first fully inclusive playgrounds in the area, and even donated two fundamental pieces to the project.

Family owned and operated, Playground Specialists, Inc. is proud to be a member of the vibrant Thurmont community. With many employees born and raised locally, the company is happy to provide jobs and support the community.  Marketing and Design Manager Amanda McGuire added, “We love Thurmont. We love to work here, live here, and give back to the community. People are like family around here.”

Deb Spalding

Rebecca LaChance of Rebecca LaChance Art & Photography has opened a studio at 5B East Main Street in Thurmont. This studio is not what you think it is. It is a special space where you can go to participate in a luxurious, artistic experience that is intended to uncover your true essence and personal story. Each client becomes a “model for a day.” The end result is a single photo, or selection of photos, that portray an artistically captured peek into your soul.

The experience starts when you meet with Rebecca for a consultation, during which, she will be on a mission to determine the scope of your project and develop her plan to create the most beautiful portrait of you that you’ve ever had. The next time you meet, you are truly the “model for the day,” complete with gown, professionally applied makeup, and professionally styled hair for your photo shoot. The shoot may take place in the studio or outside.

The photo shoot and all of these luxurious services lead up to the grand finale: the REVEAL!

“The end results are Captured Essence Portraits that display your deepest strengths. These will be treasured by family members for generations,” explained Rebecca.

Finally, the portraits that each customer selects will be printed by a master printer on fine paper and framed by a master framer for a gorgeous presentation.

A Thurmont resident, Rebecca came to the area twenty-five years ago because of military service. After practicing as a registered nurse and earning not only a Ph.D. in Health of the Community/Health Policy, but also a minor in Health Economics, she started her professional artist career as a painter and spent a number of years as a landscape photographer. Today, she finds her greatest pleasure in helping women, and sometimes men and children, feel good about themselves. She assures us, “Women are the same here as anywhere. I’m showing you the beautiful art that lies within you.”

In May, Rebecca will invite community members to take part in a photo walk. For the walk, it doesn’t matter whether you have a cell phone, point-and-shoot camera, or a fancy camera, she’ll teach you to use the camera to get the photos you want. She also offers business classes and mentoring for artists and photographers. Details will be shared when available.

It’s time to take part in your own lovely, luxury journey that culminates with you, a work of art. There’s more to see and learn with, and about, Rebecca LaChance. Visit her website at or call 240-203-7794 to schedule your consultation.

Rebecca LaChance opens Rebecca LaChance Art & Photography studio on Main Street in Thurmont

Deb Spalding

Few readers are unfamiliar with the Subway sub. Subway’s menu is easy to grasp and the process of creating each sub is custom, as each customer picks every part of the sub, from the bread to the meat, veggies, and condiments. Always yummy, Subway has improved the quality of their products one by one over the past few years in keeping with nutritional trends, as well as introducing new limited-time special flavor sub and salad options. There’s always something new at Subway, along with the option to build it your way.

“We have the biggest menu anywhere and great prices, but people are the most important part of our business,” expressed owner, Dean Biller. He shared that his customers are great and his staff members are like members of his family. His family that also includes his eleven-year-old daughter, who he claims rocks his world. “I have really good managers and staff who I value greatly. Happy crew means happy customers.”

Dean also operates a recording studio and plays bass in the band, Beyond Empty. They’ve played at the Ott House a few times. Emmitsburg Subway’s assistant manager, Ashley Maccabee, is a drummer in the band, as well as a drum instructor at the Let There Be Rock School in Frederick, Maryland. Beyond Empty plays a variety of music, ranging from Led Zeppelin to the Stone Temple Pilots.

Dean’s Subway adventure began when he, who resides in Westminster, Maryland, had his eyes open for a business opportunity. Formerly a Ford mechanic, Dean had been in food service since 1981, while working for Kraft. Dean and his wife and business partner, Lyn, noticed a Subway store for sale in Emmitsburg in late 2001, and, liking the franchise, decided to purchase the store soon after, in 2002. Emmitsburg Subway was previouly owned and operated by Terry Gladhill and her business partner Linda. They opened the store in 1997. Soon after taking over in Emmitsburg, the Billers planned a sister store in Thurmont. That location opened in 2005. About their Subway business venture, Dean said, “It’s been fun…it’s been challenging.”

Subway also caters. At the time of this interview, Dean and his team had just delivered four hundred subs for an event. “My focus is on the people and the value.”

Online, at, applications for employment and remote ordering can be found. The Emmitsburg and Thurmont Subway stores are open Mondays through Thursdays, 7:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.; Fridays, 7:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.; Saturdays, 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. The Emmitsburg Subway is located at 101 Silo Hill Road in the Silo Hill Shopping Strip; the Thurmont Subway is located at 224 North Church Street in the Thurmont Plaza Shopping Center.

Dean can be contacted directly by emailing, and he invites you to stop in for a sub.

See their spring specials in their advertisement on page 42.

Emmitsburg Subway staff members pictured from left are Kim Ruby, Josh Cornish, Dean Biller (owner), and Ashley Maccabee.

Although it is referred to as the Gettysburg casino, a newly proposed plan to place a racetrack and casino in Freedom Township would actually be closer to Emmitsburg than Gettysburg.

David LeVan, who has tried unsuccessfully twice before to put a casino in Adams County, has proposed a horse racetrack and casino called Mason-Dixon Downs at 4200 Emmitsburg Road. LeVan is an Adams County businessman who owns Battlefield Harley-Davidson, northeast of Gettysburg.

Besides gaming, the facility would also offer Standardbred harness racing. LeVan told the Gettysburg Times that Mason-Dixon Downs would be along the Mason-Dixon Line, less than a mile from the Emmitsburg Road. It is a 700-acre parcel that is 2.5 miles from the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center and 3.2 miles from Gettysburg National Military Park. He also told the newspaper that it would create hundreds of jobs.

In a press conference announcing the project, he said, “We’ve listened to those who were concerned about our previously proposed location. That’s why this project is located 2.5 miles further southeast, across a major highway and along the Maryland border.”

This also places the casino and racetrack closer to Emmitsburg. Mason-Dixon Downs could open as early as 2019.

Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs says that the people in town with whom he has spoken feel that the casino and racetrack would be a good thing for Emmitsburg.

“It’s speculative right now,” Briggs said “but the business people are very receptive to it. They feel if it did come about, it would have a positive effect on their businesses.”

Briggs said that although a portion of the property extends into Maryland, he doesn’t know if any state or county officials have been contacted about it, but town officials haven’t been. He believes that the project, if it happens, would have some impact on the town.

“We have 215 acres on the east side of U.S. Route 15,” Briggs said. “It could stimulate development there. That would be a good thing.”

In 2006, LeVan proposed placing a casino near the Route 15 and Route 30 intersection near his motorcycle business. It was rejected by the Pennsylvania State Gaming Control Board, in part, because of its nearness to the Gettysburg Battlefield. In 2010, LeVan proposed a second location at the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center. It was further away from the battlefield but about ten miles closer to Emmitsburg. The proposal was also denied.

LeVan will be applying for a category 1 gaming license, which is sometimes called a racino license. It allows racetracks to have up to 250 table games and 5,000 slot machines. Pennsylvania law allows for seven of these licenses. Six have been awarded so far.

For LeVan’s proposal, it would be a two-step process. The license was intended for existing racetracks, but allowances were made for new facilities. Mason-Dixon Downs would have to have hosted at 150 days of live racing by the second year of the license approval. However, Pennsylvania is currently considering softening this requirement.

It is expected that the project would benefit Hanover Shoe Farms near Littlestown, which is known for its breeding harness-racing horses.

This project is still in its early stages, and officials are waiting to see more details. The project already ran into its first delay when the Freedom Township Board of Supervisors failed to move the proposal forward to the planning commission until more details are received.

Another hold up (this one known beforehand) was that the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission needed to work out the application process for a harness racing track.

Tamara Manahan—devoted wife, homeschool teacher, and mother of five—shares how she plans to use an up-and-coming cosmetic technique to make a difference.

It was in the spring of 2016 when Tamara Manahan first heard about microblading, a form of tattooing that deposits pigment under the skin to mimic the stroke of eyebrow hairs. Unlike traditional tattooing, this is done using a handheld tool, which helps make eyebrows appear fuller and natural looking. When first introduced to microblading by a friend, Tamara was intrigued but didn’t give much thought to the technique otherwise.

Later that summer, Tamara found out that she would become a life-saving bone marrow donor for her father, who had been battling Lymphoma. In preparation for her surgery, Tamara spent time in the waiting rooms of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. It was here where she developed an awareness of how many people are affected by cancer and disease, and the number of people that experience hair loss due to the effects of chemotherapy. And while some patients do experience hair growth during recovery, some, unfortunately, do not. Coincidentally, earlier that month, the same friend had reached out to Tamara about a microblading workshop in Washington, D.C.—the first of its kind, locally. Though she initially did not plan to attend, Tamara realized she had an opportunity to make a difference. Driven by her desire to give back, she attended the training held by renowned European master artist, Dovile Zilinskaite, of Branko Babic’s PhiBrows Academy—the most prestigious microblading academy in the world.

“Helping others is deeply rooted in my heart,” expressed Tamara, “which is what has truly made the process worthwhile.” Currently, Tamara is completing the final level of her microblading certification, which is timed with the opening of her studio. On Fleek Brow Boutique is located at 12 N. Center Street in Thurmont, where Diane “Dee” Miller had her shop (Dee’s Hair Stylists) for forty years. A beloved member of the community, Dee passed away in September 2016 after battling ALS. As a longtime neighbor and family friend, Tamara plans to donate ten percent of her initial proceeds to the ALS Association DC/MD/VA Chapter and Hospice of Frederick County in honor of Dee.

With this new venture, Tamara hopes to give back on a larger scale. “I believe that beauty is so much more than what we see when we look in the mirror. True beauty is reflected in the art of giving. I’m thrilled not only to be able to help people look and feel beautiful, but to give back with the hope of making a small difference in a world full of need.”

On Fleek Brow Boutique is set to open February 1, 2017, for scheduled consultations, with procedures beginning in March. For more information, please visit

Tamara Manahan is shown in her studio, using microblading technique on a client.