AT HOME ON THE SHORE
While most young people can't wait to leave home, these three decided to stay and
help their family businesses on Maryland's Easter Shore
Work is a family affair around here. Chris Richards, Mimi Hill Shannahan, and Ben Gibson all grew up helping with the businesses built by earlier generations. Today, they work to strengthen those family ties.
After years of weekend boating on the Chesapeake Bay, Mike and Carol Richards, along with their son, Chris, decided to take the plunge in the early 1990s. They renovated a 33-foot Rhodes Swiftshore and headed south to Tilghman Island.
"From the time I was about 8 months old, my parents took me sailing," Chris says. "One of my earliest jobs was first mate on our boat." The father-and-son crew now explore the bay aboard the Lady Patty, a restored1935 sailing ketch, and a former Navy special-operations vessel they renamed Sharps Island. Chris pilots cruises on the Lady, while Mike uses the Island for lighthouse tours.
"I spent six years working on oil field boats in the Gulf of Mexico," Chris says. "I got my captains license and came home."
When they aren't on the water, the family runs The Lazyjack Inn on Dogwood Harbor in their restored home. Wed never stepped foot in a bed-and-breakfast before deciding to do this, Carol confides. We didn't know much about running one, but we knew what we liked.
Although Chris lends a hand on land, he's usually found aboard the Lady Patty. "I do most of those tours because, after 30 years of sailing, Dad decided to switch to motorized boats and started the lighthouse tours," he says. "But he still loves to sail. Like with me, it's in his blood."
A Healthy Business
When the entire Hill family sits at the Hills Drug Store soda fountain in Easton, theres hardly room for all of the regulars. Thats just the way founder Doc Hill and his son, William Caulk Hill, wanted it.
William, also known as Dr. Hill, had three children--David, Pamela, and Mimi--all of whom he put to work in the family business, just as his father did with him. At 81, Dr. Hill is still a very active part of the pharmacy.
Our grandfather would take us on vacation while Dad stayed and ran the store, Mimi Hill Shannahan remembers. We'd go to Louisiana to visit the doctor who put him through pharmacy school and, in a sense, gave our family business its start.
That start nearly 80 years ago turned into a tradition. Pamela joined her father as a pharmacist in 1969 and helped him run the store until illness forced her to retire seven years ago. Mimi, also a pharmacist, now manages the business and works to maintain the service level established by her predecessors.
"I remember walking in here as a teenager, seeing my grandfather and father working, and knowing that's what I wanted to do," she says. "It was like home."
These days Mimis 15-year-old daughter, Reilly, helps out behind the counter or at the drive-through window. "I hope to go to pharmacy school or get a business degree and then come back," Reilly says.
They've already saved a place for her at the soda fountain.
Back Home to Oxford
Ben Gibson started his Robert Morris career at the age of 3, picking up trash in the parking lot. At 5, he sold bags of corn to the guests so that they could feed the ducks.
"As a teenager, I worked during the season and played tennis in my free time," he says. "That's when I decided I wanted to move somewhere so I could play year-round."
After attending Salisbury University, Ben headed to Florida to start an Internet business and to play tennis in the warm weather. But his family--and some seriously hungry ducks--lured him home in 2001.
Bens coming home was a gift for us and the inn, says his father, Ken. "His computer skills really paid off."
Back in Maryland, Ben developed a website for the Robert Morris. He had lots of energy and ideas, mom Wendy says. He's helped to push the inn to places it might not have gone. For example, thanks to Ben, they now ship fresh crab cakes nationwide. He also convinced his parents to start selling James A. Micheners novel Chesapeake. The author wrote the outline for his book about the Eastern Shore while dining in their inn's Colonial Tavern.
My commitment is always year-to-year, so I keep my options open," Ben says. "But this family business does get in your blood.
All in the Families
For information on The Lazyjack Inn on Dogwood Harbor (5907 Tilghman Island Road, Tilghman Island), visit www.lazyjackinn.com or call 1-800-690-5080. For information on sailing schedules and reservations aboard the Lady Patty or lighthouse tours on the Sharp's Island, visit www.sailladypatty.com or www.chesapeakelights.com, or call 1-877-699-8837.
Hills Drug Store (30 East Dover Street, Easton) is open 8am-6pm Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm Saturday. Call 410-822-2666.
For information on the Robert Morris Inn (314 N. Morris Street, Oxford), visit www.robertmorrisinn.com or www.bestcrabcakes.com, or call 1-888-823-4012.