Another Thanksgiving over, another Black Friday fades into the media mist. Partner Frank and I enjoyed our now annual trip to Bethany Beach, DE (via Atlantic City for a night of Thanksgiving at the penny slots) where we stay at our friends Kathi and Dave Hill’s house. They have a retirement home here, although they still live on a farmhouse in Maryland, and Kathi’s mother is nearby. We meet up with all these friends on Friday, have a Thanksgiving feast on Saturday, and make the long trip back to NYC on Sunday.

This time around we left Kathi and Dave to the cooking and headed with mother Marge for a side trip to Berlin, Maryland. The town came into being sometime in the 1790s as part of the Burley Plantation, a 300-acre land grant dating to 1677. This is an old town! The name is believed to have come from a contraction of “Burleigh Inn”, a local tavern. This may be why the town is pronounced “BER-lin,” with no connection to the city in Germany.

Today the town is very reminiscent of Frenchtown, NJ, close to our house in Stockton. It consists mostly of several blocks of Main Street (with some adjoining streets) lined with shops, some restaurants, and, at one end, the historic Atlantic Hotel, built in 1895 and still as grand as ever.

We happened to be there on “Small Business Saturday”, started by American Express as a way to encourage shopping at small businesses, many of which don’t take American Express! While I suspect it’s more a way of getting them to sign up for AmEx than of actually pushing small businesses, it was good to do some shopping that was essentially free (you spend $25 and get a $25 AmEx credit).

We stopped in a number of stores on our stroll, including j.j. Fish fine crafts, Culver’s Antiques, Town Center Antiques, and the Berlin Coffee Shop. There are 53 businesses listed on the brochures you can find in just about any of the stores, and if you have some time for a meal, you can eat in one of several good restaurants.

I noticed what seems to be, for small towns, the obligatory house-drawn tour carriage. Traffic is very light, or at least it was this afternoon, and the town clearly relies on tourists to keep going. If you’re in the area, its only about an hour from Rehoboth, less from Bethany Beach and other places you might find yourself, be sure to stop for a hour or three in Berlin and say we sent you!

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