Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Food

Two local shops cook up delicious gift ideas

STORY BY Emily Johnson      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Robin Shotola

November/December 2017

My grandmother has clear preferences when it comes to gifts: “If I can’t eat it or wear it, I don’t want it.”

Edible treats appeal to both the giver and the recipient. On the giving side, we can feel assured that our offering will be enjoyed. For the giftee, there’s nothing left behind to clutter up your home. A box of chocolate or a family friendly tin of gourmet popcorn will disappear in a blink.

If there’s a sweet tooth on your shopping list this season, look no further than the entrepreneurs on Main Street in Ellicott City.

Sweet Cascades Chocolatier has been shelling out delicious treats in historic Ellicott City since 2005. Owner Sue Whary started her business as a caterer, providing indulgent chocolate fountains for special events—the origin of the name Sweet Cascades. When she found a shop for lease on Main Street, however, she and her husband, Rick, began making handcrafted chocolates like truffles, caramels, peanut butter cups and more.

The shop is small and cozy, with décor that features muted colors that don’t dis¬tract from the merchandise. A massive glass case in the center of the narrow shop displays all manner of enticing chocolates, across from tables piled with colorful, giftwrapped treats. A handful of tables on a porch tucked in the back overlook the river winding between buildings.

Whary started her chocolate fountain business as an alternative to the desk job she held. “I felt stuck,” she admits. Boredom soon sparked creativity and a desire to do something exciting—each catering event introduced Whary to new people and new places.

Soon, the catering gigs led to candy making. She taught herself to make truffles, peanut butter cups and malted milk balls. The Sweet Cascades offerings are decorated with chocolate swirls and scalloped edges; while consistent they aren’t so uniform that they look factory-made.

Whary seems to enjoy dipping things in chocolate. If you bring in a bottle of wine, she’ll coat the whole thing in molten sweet-ness. When it’s time to consume the extravagant treat, pull on an embedded ribbon to disrobe the bottle. The chocolate-dipped wine, says Whary, is a holiday favorite. Has there ever been a more unusual and delectable pairing of wine and chocolate?

Other holiday themed treats include Santas and Christmas trees, as well as custom Hannukah pieces, anywhere from menorahs to dreidels.

After the flood that swept through Ellicott City in July 2016, Whary found a kitchen space in Savage Mill where she already operated a second shop. She moved back into her Main Street space in February 2017. She’s happy to be back, she says. “There’s no place like Main Street.”

Her next goal is to expand into the building adjacent to her Ellicott City shop, adding an ice cream parlor on the ground floor and using the second floor space to host chocolate workshops. As for the third floor? “I’m bringing in my disco ball,” she says with a grin. Indeed, she owns a disco ball and plans to have it up and running for Midnight Madness.

The disco ball would fit nicely less than a block down Main Street at E.C. Pops. Classic ’50s rock blasts from the building throughout the day, morphing into’80s dance tracks at night. E.C. Pops stays open until 10 p. m. most nights, doing a brisk business in sweet coated popcorn, fudge and other treats.

The decision to keep late hours was a no-brainer, says owner Lance Sovine. The festive store with its blaring music attracts after-hours browsers from Main Street’s bars and restaurants, some drawn to the tunes, others with a craving for something sweet. “The party never ends here,” Sovine laughs.

Sovine discovered Ellicott City’s Main Street after he moved to Maryland with his partner, who was transferred here by Walmart. Once he saw the way the community came together after the 2016 flood, Sovine decided to quit his job (also at Walmart) and open a small business. “Everyone—from the businesses to the customers—supported each other so fiercely,” he says. E.C. Pops moved into its space as many other businesses were finishing renovations. “I said, ‘I want to be part of a community.’”

Inside the shop, a wall of popcorn competes for attention with brightly colored treats and toys. Virginia Atkins stands behind the counter in a cherry-printed vintage dress.

Sovine and Atkins have been friends since they both worked for Walmart in Connecticut. Atkins had retired and moved to Texas, but Sovine knew she’d want to be part of the popcorn shop. “She doesn’t like to sit still,” he says. Talking her into joining him in the venture was easy, Sovine says. “She’s like family. Plus, we’re both crazy, so we make a great team.”

Atkins, who favors bright vintage dresses and upswept hair, makes the 55 flavors of popcorn, from basics like butter and caramel to such offbeat concoctions as dill pickle and loaded baked potato. She also makes all the fudge for the shop, from classic chocolate to pink strawberry and mint. Along with fudge and popcorn, E.C. Pops is stocked with craft sodas and homemade jam.

Sovine says he looks for female vendors and purveyors to stock the EC Pops gift shop. His commitment to empowering women dates to his own childhood. “My mother was physically abused for years,” he says. “I don’t want any woman to be a victim.”

A lot of the products come from tiny startups, he says, pointing to the hand-painted glassware. “That company was started by two women at their kitchen table to make extra money. Now it’s a big company with employees.” As a manager at Walmart in Connecticut, Sovine says, he had many female employees in bad relationships. “I’d do what I could to help them get out of abusive situations. I remember paying out of my pocket for hotel rooms,” he says.

E.C. Pops also raises money for local causes like Blossoms of Hope (see sidebar). It may be the season for gift-giving, but Sovine’s charitable spirit is a year-round thing.

Each year on the first Friday of December, Main Street vendors stay open late for the annual Midnight Madness celebration. (This year, the event will be held on Friday, December 1.) Sweet Cascades, E.C. Pops and other Ellicott City businesses will ring in the holiday season with plenty of sweet gift ideas.*

Bills for Hope

Before he opened the doors of E.C. Pops, Lance Sovine stapled a dollar bill to the shop’s freshly painted ceiling. “I wanted to remind myself to pick a local charity to support,” says Sovine, a former Walmart manager who owns the popcorn and candy shop on Main Street in Ellicott City. When the shop opened in April, the bill remained, catching the attention of customers.

Sovine, who had decided to support Blossoms of Hope, the organization that funds breast cancer support services, decided to leave the dollar in place, and customers began donating their own bills to the cause. Today, the ceiling of the lively shop is plastered with currency, which will be taken down and counted on New Year’s Day, says Sovine. “We’re planning a celebration and presentation.”

In December, the E.C. Pops Facebook page will seek input on a charity for 2018, and as of January 1, the bill collection will start all over again. “Each night, part of closing is pulling out the ladder and stapling dollar—or five dollar—bills to the ceiling,” says Sovine.

For 2018, customers may choose another charity, or may remain with Blossoms of Hope. One way or the other, Sovine intends to continue his relationship with the organization, which plants cherry trees and raises money for the Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center at Howard County General Hospital. Last year, E.C. Pops contributed 500 bags of pink popcorn to the annual Pretty in Pink luncheon.

– Martha Thomas


Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Home and Garden


STORY BY Rebecca Kirkman      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

November/December 2017

Lena Munther never does the same thing twice. The Swedish interior architect based in Howard County says, “Even when a client comes to me and says they would love something similar to my previous work, I always try to make it custom, so each client gets their own feel and their own touch.”

This custom approach won Munther the attention of restaurateur Steve Wecker, who hired Munther for his long-awaited project at One Merriweather. Cured, a farm-to-table restaurant, and Eighteenth & Twenty First, a speakeasy, are slated to open in January.

Since establishing her Maryland firm in 2003, Munther has grown to a team of three, all women, and completed ground¬breaking local projects including FX Studios Salon & Spa in Hunt Valley and the Creig Northrop Team offices in Clarksville.

From a desk in the office—a remodeled garage adjacent to her Highland home, a space flooded with natural light from windows on three sides—Munther gestures toward two concept boards loaded with material swatches.

On one, concrete with a matte, leather-like finish; a scrap of copper metal; and a photo of factory-style windows show the hip and industrial vibe planned for Cured, a toe-to-tail butchery focusing on Old World methods and forgotten cuts. The design will incorporate rustic materials, including wood milled from trees that once grew on the site. “It’s a combination of modern touches with classic, old-style finishes,” explains Wecker, owner of Columbia’s Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Past Cured’s custom-designed wine cellar made of factory-style glass, a hallway leads to the jazz speakeasy, Eighteenth & Twenty First. Its inspiration board channels the Roaring ’20s through sumptuous textiles, and deeper colors and textures. “You can just see, looking at the colors and heavier materials, that it’s richer and darker,” says Munther. “It’s the old Gatsby style, but it’s done in a functional, more contemporary way.”

The two restaurants, each unique in design and price point but sharing a kitchen, grew from the expansive space available on the ground level of One Merriweather, a 208,000-square-foot building anchored by MedStar. At the corner of Broken Land and Little Patuxent parkways, it’s part of the larger Merriweather District, an urban downtown development by Howard Hughes Corp., which is leading a $2.3 billion revitalization of downtown Columbia.

“I didn’t want a flat-out restaurant designer, because what I’ve discovered with some of those designers is they all kind of look the same, and I didn’t want the same,” says Wecker, whose business cards read “Idea guy.” He continues, “I wanted someone who would take our thoughts, our input, and incorporate it into the design—somebody I could work with closely.”

More than seven years in the making, the restaurant and speakeasy will bring a unique experience to Howard County diners and denizens of nightlife. “We’re trying to do some things that haven’t been seen locally,” says Wecker.

With a background ranging from luxury cruise ships to state-of-the-art veterinary hospitals and homes built from the ground up, Munther’s designs are anything but cookie-cutter.

Born in Sweden, the designer has been putting pencil to paper since she was 6 years old. “It was just natural to me to always draw on something,” she recalls. After graduating from London’s Chelsea School of Art and Design in 1984, Munther worked on cruise ship designs for Cunard Cruise Lines among others with an architecture firm in Oslo, Norway.

There, she learned to design amid the industry’s technical limitations—think confined spaces, no right angles and limited natural light. The training, she says, has endured throughout her career. “I thrive on challenges. I like when it gets a little tricky and I have to figure something out,” Munther says.

By avoiding pigeon-holing herself into any subspecialties in the industry, Munther is able to approach each project with a fresh perspective—although, she says with a smile, word-of-mouth has resulted in a growing number of veterinary-focused projects since she completed the Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group facility in 2009.

She prides herself on listening to her clients. “It’s not about me, it’s not about my designs,” she explains. “The design is an extension of the client. It’s really their custom project that I put my spin on.”

Munther’s holistic approach and ability to translate a corporate brand into a physical space won over companies like Levi Strauss, one of her first clients after launching her own firm in Norway in the 1990s. The relationship lasted half a decade, encompassing the brand’s Nordic headquarters and several retail stores. She has continued to work on commercial projects.

Sometimes, though, a commercial relationship becomes more personal. Several clients have come back to Munther for help on residential projects, from kitchen remodels to the construction of a custom designed home. “We’ve already built a relationship,” explains Munther. “There’s a comfort there, and you can speak openly and honestly.”

Drs. Sherman and Debra Canapp, for example, worked with Munther to trans¬form a 16,000-square-foot warehouse in Annapolis Junction into Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group. Lacking the sterile, impersonal ambience of a typical hospital, the facility’s warm design focuses on comfort and function with a contemporary feel. It won an award for veterinary design in 2010, and gave rise to a string of veterinary- and healthcare-focused projects for Munther Design.

Wanting to move closer to their new facility, the Canapps returned to Munther for help designing and constructing their 12,000-square-foot “Medieval meets modern” home, completed in 2015. A grand staircase anchors the large, open living space with double-high ceilings. Polished and stained concrete floors with wood inlays echo beams on the ceiling, while a custom-designed iron chandelier grounds a regal-yet-intimate seating area in front of a stone fireplace surround.

“They are very well traveled and have an eclectic, fun style,” says Munther. The couple brought ideas from abroad and asked the designer to incorporate them in the home design.

Whether commercial or residential, the Munther Design process involves bringing many ideas together into a cohesive concept. “Lena’s been a terrific partner,” says Wecker. “She’s overseeing the whole project, keeping everybody on pace—plus she’s incredibly organized and a ton of fun.”*.



When it comes to the home, how can I determine my personal style?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you see something that catches your eye. Interview yourself and say what do I like? What do I tend to come back to? If you follow that, you will develop a personal style and a baseline. Then, stay true to your baseline. Don’t be afraid to try something new, but maybe do it in a subtle way so you can live with it longer.  Otherwise, you’re led by what you see out in the marketplace.

What about designing space for entertaining?

I love having people around me, and we always open up our house to guests. I recommend an open practical area with materials that can take abuse. This will help relieve the host from running around protecting their home during gatherings. You can always make things pretty, but first think about whether they are practical. Another consideration is the ability to seal off floors and rooms, especially if you have family members who need to go to bed or get up before the party starts or ends. Many people like to have private and public spaces.


Written by admin on . Posted in Business, news

November/December 2017

Paula Dwyer and her husband were walking down Main Street in Ellicott City in 2013 when they noticed that 8004 was for sale. “I walked in and I fell in love,” she recalls. “I said to my husband ‘I have to have this building’.”

Dwyer grew up in a restaurant family. Her parents owned a handful of places, including a steakhouse in Washington, D.C. She had always dreamed of opening up a cafe so she bought the building, which dates to 1890. Then the 2016 flash flood happened, filling her new property with four feet of water.

Fortunately, major renovation work had not yet begun, but even so, the damage set her dreams back a year. In rebuilding, says Dwyer, “We are mindful of water coming in and how we can prevent it.”

Opened in early September and named for her mother and daughter, Georgia Grace Cafe features Mediterranean cuisine with Greek influences. Dwyer’s parents were both born in Greece so the souvlaki and spanakopita come from family recipes. Open for breakfast and lunch in a quick service format, the restaurant also features flatbreads, salads, soups and coffee.

The café seats around 50 people, and Dwyer, whose background is marketing and advertising, is aiming for a European ambience. “I want customers to experience my food but also enjoy the environment,” she says.


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By Lyn Dippel

November/December 2017


Since we typically spend more time indoors at home during the colder months, we’re often inspired to dive into home improvements However, remodeling projects can easily get expensive. Here are some considerations to help you prioritize.

First consider the cost versus the value of your proposed projects. Online tools, such as the remodeling calculator found at will show that some improvements will recoup their cost upon resale and others won’t. Even so, certain improvements may bring enough joy to your lifestyle to justify the cost.

Less costly projects that add a high percentage to the resale value include:

— Upgraded or refreshed landscaping – Trim or eliminate overgrown trees and shrubs to create more space and light. Replacing stale plants with fresh easy care perennials such as grasses and ground covers, and adding evergreens with colored leaves or fruits will update the yard without a big investment.

— Updated entranceways – A new front door offers high impact at minimal cost. Front light fixtures and house numbers can be updated easily and inexpensively—as can mailboxes.

— New fixtures – Replacing prosaic outdated light fixtures and faucets will make an older home seem more up-to-date for a minimal cost.

For larger projects, consult with a realtor in your area or an online guide like Remodeling’s annual cost versus value calculator This resource gives average costs of various projects in your region, along with the estimated percent recouped at resale. In the D.C.-Baltimore area, lucrative undertakings include:

• Installing high quality garage doors
• Turning an attic into a bedroom
• Replacing windows or siding
• Adding a wood deck

Once you’ve decided on the project, consider financing options. Many opt to use their home equity for a loan or a line of credit. A home equity loan resembles a traditional mortgage, with a lump sum repaid in equal monthly payments over a fixed term, usually up to 15 years. A home equity line of credit (sometimes referred to as a HELOC) gives you access to funds that you can draw upon anytime. Lines of credit work especially well with remodeling projects because fees for contractors and supplies are generally spread out, and taking out funds over time means you can avoid paying interest until you actually withdraw money. Interest on either type of loan is usually tax deductible.

Keep in mind that although debt financing can make sense in some situations, it is never a good idea to use home equity to fund a project that would otherwise be outside your means. For more information on using home equity as a source of funding see the government sponsored websites: HELOC-brochure.pdf or https://www.

Paying from savings may be an option as well. To determine whether to obtain a loan or pay cash, compare the after-tax interest expense with the investment return on your savings. Loans allow you to keep your savings and investments earning money for you. If, as is often the case, the rate you earn on your investment savings is higher than the interest you would pay on a loan, it makes sense to finance the expense. (See home-equity.aspx for current rates.)

As with any financial decision, proper planning and research can help improve your quality of life along with your net worth and help you avoid big mistakes along the way. *

Lyn Dippel, JD, CFP®, president of FAI Wealth Management, provides financial planning and investment management for transitions such as retirement, career changes, sale of a business, relocation and inheritance


Written by admin on . Posted in Business

November/December 2017

Shortly after Clarksville resident Marla Stahl adopted a mixed breed terrier she named Sugar, the dog went after a bird. Taking the dog back inside the house, Stahl told Sugar to be kind to all animals.

Over the next week, Stahl would open up her curtains to find different critters scratch¬ing at her window including a squirrel, frog, cicada and bunny. She told a neighbor about the odd visitors. The animals, she told her neighbor, “are trying to thank me for keeping Sugar in the house or they are trying to ask her to come out and play.” The two laughed and Stahl suggested the story might make a good children’s book. After their talk, she ran downstairs to her computer and wrote her first book “Can Sugar Come Out to Play?” in a day. “It was pretty quick once that flash of inspiration comes,” she says.

Though she published her first book in 2015, after retiring, Stahl’s love of writing dates to fourth and fifth grade, when she wrote stories for her teacher’s classroom newsletter. Stahl’s second book, “Lucy the Amazing Wonder Dog” came out in 2016, and features her ordinary yet extraordinary mixed breed dog. This year, Stahl published two more books “Sugar Goes to the Dentist” and “Mason the Ambassadog.“

“Dentist” was inspired during a chat with her dental hygienist and “Mason” was inspired after Stahl visited Puerto Rico and saw stray dogs roaming the streets. She began donating to Second Chance Animal Rescue of Puerto Rico and soon became friends with the head of the agency, who suggested Stahl write a story about a disabled pit bull named Mason.

For every book Stahl sells, a portion goes toward a charity—usually a small animal rescue organization. Stahl reads to children at area schools and at local pet stores. “It is fun being a little cottage industry,” she says. “I build relationships with the people I meet.”

WOMEN’S RESOURCE GUIDE | POSH Destination Services, LLC’s

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Healthy Getaways

November/December 2017


POSH Destination Services, LLC is your ticket to a healthy and stress-free vacation. Pamela Smith-Evans, the company’s founder and CEO, combines her two great loves – travel and exquisite events – to create custom-tailored journeys for a range of groups, from business conferences to wellness holidays.

Join POSH Destination Services, LLC aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines’ Celebrity Summit as it heads to the beautiful island of Bermuda,May 6-13, 2018. The three days at sea will be packed with activities for POSH Destination guests who wish to take charge of their health and well being. Participants will enjoy yoga and meditation classes,nutrition workshops, and presentations by a financial planner.

Because this special package is organized by a Travel Specialist, guests will enjoy perks like room upgrades and unlimited complementary beverages. POSH guests can delight in relaxing walks on the deck, cocktail parties, and a farewell red carpet gala during the all-inclusive cruse. “Whether you want to manage your stress, your weight or your fi nances,” says Smith-Evans, “this POSH cruise will help get you on the right track.”

The cruise departs May 6 from Cape Liberty, N.J. and arrives in Bermuda May 9. After two nights on our own, enjoying Bermuda’s pink sands, and British culture and shopping, we’ll depart from King’s Wharf on May 11, returning to N.J. May 13. Packages from $1622. For information, go to

WOMEN’S RESOURCE GUIDE | Harry H. WItzke’s Family Funeral Home

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Where do I start?  Who do I call?  What do I do next?

November/December 2017


A lot of misunderstanding exists in the funeral industry. As a Certified Funeral Service Professional, I have spent the last 24+ years guiding and serving the families in our community through this difficult time.

Researching your options ahead of time, is invaluable when choosing a funeral home or funeral service provider, ask questions:

What are your average costs of burial or cremation services?

With whom are you making arrangements?

Is the funeral service provider family owned or corporately owned?

If I prepay and change my mind is my money refundable?

Can I make changes to the prearrangements in the future?

Are the prices of my arrangements guaranteed?

When a death occurs who do I call?

If the deceased was in another state or country,contact your preferred funeral home where you want your loved one taken. They can arrange for transportation and preparation to bring them into their care, even from far away. You can contact a local funeral home where the death occurs, but you will incur additional costs. They will coordinate the return of the deceased to your hometown.

Sherri Collins-Witzke, CFSP is Vice President/Manager for Harry H. WItzke’s Family Funeral Home in Ellicott City.

WOMEN’S RESOURCE GUIDE | Trinity School Represents a Pillar of Education with over 75 years in the Community!

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Located in the Heart of Ellicott City, Trinity is known as “a place where children learn to love learning.”

November/December 2017


From Preschool through eighth grade, the uniqueness of each child is recognized and respected. Children are encouraged and challenged to achieve their best.

Trinity faculty utilize their educational training, skills, talents, and model their faith so that students are taught the fundamentals of a spiritual life, academic achievement, an appreciation of the arts, healthy lifestyle choices, and multi-cultural awareness.

Trinity School prides itself on teaching students to be a “whole person,” which Principal Sister Catherine Phelps describes as “academically and emotionally strong, spiritually sound and physically fit. We believe in helping the children grow as well-rounded as possible – music, sports, reading and faith are all very important.” The administration, faculty and the Board of Trustees cherish Trinity’s long tradition of excellence in education and character development.

We are proud to share that 17 of our graduating 8th grade students in the Class of 2017 were awarded 36 scholarships for a total of $592,600.


Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Family, Health and Wellness

November/December 2017






The word creates an emotional reaction.

Will I have enough money?
Will my children be okay?
Can I keep my home or have to move?
Aside from an attorney,who else do I need to help me?

The SIEGELLAW immersion approach to family law is unique. In addition to full service family law representation, we provide our clients with a road map to move forward with their lives.

WOMEN’S RESOURCE GUIDE | Check Engine Light on?

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What does it mean when the “Check Engine” light comes on in my car?

November/December 2017



When the “check engine” light comes on, it is a warning to let you know there is a problem with your car.

Why is it important to fix your car when the check engine light is on? If the light is on, there is a good chance the car is releasing excess pollutants or consuming too much gas. When one of the systems in your car is not working correctly, the main computer for the car will take over to compensate. This may cause other systems to work harder in order to bring the vehicle back into proper efficiency mode.

If you are having this problem or other concerns about your car, our friendly and reliable staff at Hillmuth Certified Automotive can address your concerns and advise you of repair options. Hillmuth has been serving the community for nearly 40 Years. We are family owned and operated and now have 2 generations as my son Scott and my brother Bill’s son Billy are now part of the team. Our staff has an average tenure of 15 years. Which means the next time you need to come in, the same staff members will be there to assist you. We attribute our success to developing relationships with our customers and building trust with them. Make an appointment today for your car and see why customers have voted Hillmuth the “Best of Howard County” for auto repair 6 years in a row.