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THB Bagelry & Deli opens in Columbia


THB Balgery & Deli has opened in Columbia Crossing, holding its grand opening ceremony on November 19. This is the eatery’s fifth location, and its first in Howard County. At the ceremony, CEO and co-owner Tony Scotto presented a check for more than $4,000 to Susan G. Komen Maryland. The money was raised from its October Pink Bagels campaign for breast cancer awareness.

Pictured from left, Gretchen Derewicz and Michael Jessup, Susan G Komen Foundation Maryland; Tony Scotto, CEO and co-owner, THB; Donald Kropfelder, Susan G. Komen Foundation Maryland. Photo courtesy THB Bagelry & Deli.

Delivering the good stuff

Bob & Lois Gamerman have pivoted their business, expanding during COVID. Photo courtesy Soft Stuff Distributors.

Cinnamon rolls, donuts, bread – the foodservice distribution company Soft Stuff Distributors is delivering comfort foods as part of a growing food portfolio to satisfy increased customer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s the top-selling comfort food right now?

Cheesecake, said co-owner Lois Gamerman, who founded the company with her husband Bob 31 years ago. “That’s been a real seller in terms of desserts across the board during the pandemic.”

Bob said, “In these pandemic times, carryout restaurants want to distinguish themselves with an over-the-top great dessert. Donuts have been selling very well, too!”

Pre-COVID, the company, based out of a warehouse in Jessup, sold food to hotels and restaurants, not individual consumers.

Now, with the pandemic decimating their main sector of sales, they’ve shifted their consumer base to include individuals who order online.

New for the holidays, customers can now order the Gamerman’s own line of Smith Island cakes, the official dessert of Maryland that features nine layers of yellow cake with chocolate icing in between.

“We found that the local choices of Smith Island Cakes are expensive – in fact, unnecessarily so,” said Bob. “We decided to start manufacturing them ourselves.”

Soft Stuff will offer four flavors: traditional, red velvet, peanut butter, and cookies & cream.

As they continue to fulfill online orders, Soft Stuff Distributors expanded into the beverage industry.

“We have just solidified our contract with Oberweis Dairy to distribute their fantastic milk and dairy products to the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia marketplace. Oberweis has been providing the best-tasting, all natural, all-clean milk bottled in glass since 1915,” said Lois.

Operating for decades under the tagline “Delivering the Good Stuff,” Bob still believes Soft Stuff is still delivering deliciousness – just in a different way because of COVID-19.

Prior to COVID-19, Soft Stuff never sold directly to the public. Instead, it provided over 3,000 food products to restaurants, hotels and caterers throughout the mid-Atlantic.

That all but disappeared when the pandemic hit.

“We had to reinvent ourselves,” said Bob. “Our wholesale business has come back to just over 50 percent of the sales we were doing last year. But we’re a different wholesale company than we were prior to COVID.”

Soft Stuff considered an essential business was still in operation throughout the lockdown. But they had to eliminate 27 positions with the decrease in business.

The Gamermans sent “Boxes of Love” to those employees, and invited them to pick up food for their families.

The Gamermans also have delivered more than 140,000 meals and 147 tons of rescued produce to local communities.

“Soft Stuff also recently took over the regional distribution for Bakery De France, a Rockville-based Artisan bread manufacturer that provides bread to retailers and restaurants nationwide.

“With all of the new channels of business that Soft Stuff has opened up, if we extrapolate out the dollar value of these additional businesses, we will reach our original volume of sales from last year during the first quarter of next year,” said Bob.

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly | November 2020 Issue

Safeway partners with HHS for vaccine 


Through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Strategy for COVID-19 Vaccination, Safeway pharmacies in Albertsons Mid-Atlantic Division will receive a direct allocation of COVID-19 vaccine once it is authorized or approved and recommended for use in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made the announcement, in which it outlined its partnership with pharmacy chains to maximize access to COVID-19 vaccines for all Americans. The vaccine will be administered at no cost to recipients.

Safeway pharmacists (and pharmacy technicians, where state law permits) are trained to administer vaccines. In the face of increased demand, they have protected a record number of people against influenza this season and can provide vaccinations for illnesses like MMR, pneumonia, shingles, and more.

By providing vaccines directly to jurisdictions and pharmacies, the federal government will be able to distribute the vaccines quickly and efficiently to millions of people. Safeway pharmacies will work with the CDC and the states in which they operate to streamline and optimize the delivery of the vaccine by working closely to coordinate, track and monitor distribution.

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, recipients will be able to find contactless consent forms for the vaccine in the Safeway pharmacy app(s). By completing the necessary paperwork electronically ahead of time, patients can reduce the amount of time spent in the pharmacy.

Campaign launched to stop digital ad tax


Marylanders for Tax Fairness, an independent coalition of Marylanders, businesses of all sizes, and pro-economic growth advocates, announced its official formation, initial membership, and outlined its collective mission to sustain Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of House Bill 732, the Digital Advertising Tax.

Currently, the coalition is comprised of nearly 100 businesses, organizations, and individuals who have joined together to fight against unfair taxes thrust upon the state’s leading job creators in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and the worst possible time in modern history.

Marylanders for Tax Fairness is working to persuade the Maryland General Assembly to allow Governor Hogan’s veto of House Bill 732 to stand when the 2021 legislative session begins in January. The non-partisan Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has estimated that House Bill 732 will cost Maryland taxpayers $250 million every year.

“The reality is that Marylanders and Maryland businesses will be the ones who will end up paying this tax and given the current COVID-19 crisis, that is unconscionable,” said Doug Mayer, spokesman for Marylanders for Tax Fairness. “This is a bad time for a bad idea, and we are respectfully asking the Maryland General Assembly to reconsider their support for this new tax on job creators. Maryland entrepreneurs and small businesses are doing everything they can to survive the pandemic. The last thing they need is another tax and additional costs making it even harder than it already is.”

NIVF formed in partnership with NIVA


As the National Independent Venue Association’s (NIVA) 2,900 members hope for the passage of the Save Our Stages Act in Congress, NIVA has announced the formation of the National Independent Venue Foundation (NIVF).

A registered nonprofit 501(c)(3), it seeks to partner and fundraise through individual, corporate and foundation donations to expand upon NIVA’s mission to preserve, as well as nurture the ecosystem of independent live performance venues and promoters throughout the U.S. by also seeking to support a transparent, competitive marketplace serving a diverse and inclusive community of artists, fans and industry workers.

“The National Independent Venue Foundation is built on the same guiding principles as the National Independent Venue Association. While NIVA remains the advocacy, sponsorship, and membership trade organization branch of the cause, The Foundation has been created to focus on separate, supplemental initiatives, such as the Emergency Relief Fund,” said Hal Real, president of NIVF. Real is also president of World Cafe Live in Philadelphia and secretary of NIVA.

“The Foundation hopes to learn from existing best practices and training programs undertaken by NIVA’s members and expand upon them to provide education and community programming, employee training and support, and economic development initiatives to further develop both organizations’ efforts to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion. Long-term, we hope to establish an endowment fund to assure sustainability of NIVA and Foundation programming for years to come.”

Anne Arundel County adds COVID limits


Taking action to attempt to curb a sudden increase in COVID cases, County Executive Steuart Pittman announced several new restrictions at the county’s Emergency Operation Center with County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and top county public safety officials.

Anne Arundel County will impose new social gathering limits of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors starting on Friday and suspend youth athletics beginning on Monday. Maximum capacity for indoor dining operations in bars and restaurants will also be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent beginning on Friday, November 20.

“Waiting is not an option,” said Pittman. “Like our neighboring jurisdictions, we are acting now to slow the spread that will inevitably lead to a hospitalization surge at a time when our hospitals are operating near capacity. This is a more dangerous moment than we faced in the spring, so there is no question that we must take action.”

Effective Friday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m.

Maximum number of people permitted at a social gathering are 10 indoors and 25 outdoors. (A social gathering is any informal gathering of people that is not explicitly covered in other current executive orders.)

Effective Monday, Nov. 16 at 8 a.m.

Youth athletics are suspended for all county fields and facilities.

Effective Friday, Nov. 20 at 5 p.m.

Maximum capacity for indoor dining operations in restaurants, bars and any foodservice establishment will be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent.

Both the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are reviewing their enforcement protocols and assessing options for enhancements. Pittman will also continue to monitor the COVID-19 metrics and consult with Dr. Kalyanaraman to determine when and if additional interventions are needed to protect the health and safety of county residents.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions are available at www.aacounty.org/coronavirus/road-to-recovery.

UM to spotlight COVID-persevering companies

Photo courtesy University of Maryland.

Next spring, the Center for Global Business (CGB) at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business is recognizing companies that persevered through the pandemic with its Maryland Business Adapts 20/21 initiative.

The new initiative seeks to celebrate the adjustments during the pandemic of Maryland companies in international business, while providing insights for topics like minimizing business risk of their global operations or preparation for sudden operational changes.

“Even during an economic standstill, Maryland companies have proven resilient and now understand better practices for rapid response and international risk management,” said Rebecca Bellinger, executive director of the Center for Global Business. “The hope is that these stories serve as valuable lessons for other companies and our students as they progress into their careers.”

The center is collecting nominations through Nov. 20 for five companies to be recognized in an inaugural Maryland Adapts Business Roundtable event this spring. The center plans to produce open-source case studies for classroom use that highlight these companies’ practices during the pandemic.

During the event, the companies will be further recognized with a certificate at the roundtable panel discussion, with another opportunity to go more in-depth into their strategies with the audience.

Bellinger encourages everyone to nominate companies that they believe deserve recognition for their work during the pandemic and hopes this is the start of a new yearly collaboration. For more information, visit www.rhsmith.umd.edu/centers/global-business/programs-initiatives/alumni-industry-professionals/maryland-business-adapts-2021.

Virtual acupuncture telehealth available for free


Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) is now offering complimentary virtual acupuncture telehealth visits to Maryland residents.

A typical acupuncture in-person visit includes treatment with needles but there is much more that occurs and these other aspects can be provided via telehealth.

Part of the underlying wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine is its focus on self-care and health promotion.

MUIH acupuncturists are educated in movement therapy such as qi gong and T’ai chi. They can impart dietary advice, lead people through breathing exercises and body awareness techniques, and some also suggest herbs.

Additionally, they can guide clients through self-applied acupressure treatments.

The free telehealth services will be provided by MUIH students under the supervision of a licensed practitioner.

“We are committed to providing the community with uninterrupted care, holistic health tools, and relationship-centered attention to our clients,” said Michelle McNear, Ph.D., director of the Natural Care Center at MUIH.

To schedule a free visit or request more information call the Natural Care Center at 410-888-9048 ext. 6614 or send an email message to naturalcarecenter@muih.edu.

Advarra acquires IntegReview IRB


Columbia-based Advarra, a provider of institutional review board (IRB), institutional biosafety committee (IBC), quality and compliance consulting services has announced the acquisition of IntegReview IRB, an AAHRPP-accredited central IRB.

For the company, which markets early phase clinical research, the addition of IntegReview enables Advarra to continue its expansion of comprehensive review solutions capabilities in North America.

“IntegReview and Advarra share a mission-driven passion for protecting clinical trial participants,” said Gadi Saarony, CEO of Advarra. “Our aim is to benefit clinical trials and drug development through expanded subject matter expertise, technology-enabled efficiencies, and continuing commitment to ethics, quality, and service. We are excited to welcome more talent to enhance our combined capabilities and geographic footprint.”

The Austin, Tex. headquarters for IntegReview will become the first Advarra office in the southern U.S. The acquisition also increases depth of expertise in many key areas, most notably in early phase research.

Pittman tabs Awad for Arundel police

Photo courtesy AA County.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman has chosen Hyattsville Police Chief Amal Awad as his selection for Anne Arundel County Chief of Police. Awad began her career 30 years ago as a patrol officer in Prince George’s County; today, she serves as Chief of Police for the City of Hyattsville. She served as Chief of Staff on the Anne Arundel County Police Department from 2013-14, serving alongside now-Acting Chief William Lowry under Chief Kevin Davis.

In her 23-years on the Prince George’s County department Awad gained experience in every aspect of policing, serving as a district commander, shift commander, special assignment team supervisor, robbery suppression team supervisor and executive officer at headquarters.

During that time, she was awarded both her bachelor’s and master’s degree, with honors, in management from The Johns Hopkins School of Education. At her 2011 graduation, she was awarded the school’s Leadership Award, conferred upon only one graduate each year. More recently, she completed training at the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Women’s Leadership Institute.

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