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Bay Country Luxe

By Reen Waterman

Cambridge retailer, Bay Country Shop, surprises its shoppers with sophisticated selections and extra-special service.

From left to right: Marilyn Varner, Wendy Collins, and Connie Tubman are delighted to greet every customer to their store which offers something for everyone.

One pleasure of traveling to the ocean is finding numerous places to stretch your legs, soak in the culture, and purchase a remembrance of your trip. The most iconic and welcoming of these waypoints is the Bay Country Shop, located at 2709 Ocean Gateway in Cambridge.

The Bay Country Shop is as much a wonderland of Chesapeake Bay-inspired products as it is a showpiece of the finest in “Shore Hospitality.” Owned and operated by founder Connie Tubman and her daughter, Wendy Collins, while managed by Connie’s sister, Marilyn Varner, the Bay Country Shop has something for everyone. From the moment you walk in and receive a neighborly welcome, you enter a world of unique décor, clothing, housewares, and jewelry. And if you’re looking for a good “beach read,” expect to find a large selection of books written by local authors about life on the Shore.

During my recent visit, Connie, with an inviting smile, shared one of the keys to the shop’s 50-year success, “You may enter our shop as a stranger, but you will leave as a friend.” She sagely added, “In an era where customer service has been left by the wayside, we treat everyone with VIP status. We fill our store with products our customers request, enjoy, and which prove to be family treasures.”

Marilyn, Connie, and Wendy, the designing women of Bay Country Shop, bring a level of unexpected retail sophistication to the Shore.

Originally started in 1970 as an outdoors store selling hunting and fishing gear (on the Talbot County side of the Choptank River Bridge), this eclectic gift and clothing shop is now a beloved landmark of Dorchester County. Moving to its current location in 1985, these three “designing women” totally transformed what was originally a bank and trailer into this traveler’s landmark. The renovation project even led them to Maine where they obtained old barn siding for the walls and ceilings. The décor also includes reclaimed wood from both an old packing plant and a ship’s floor.

The owners’ family history in Dorchester County dates to the 1700s, and their love of

Dorchester County and the Chesapeake Bay are obvious. In fact, this was the Shore’s first “Bay Country” store. Everywhere you look you’ll find local artwork displayed, including paintings by Connie herself.

While many people may hear you when you speak, Connie is one of those rare individuals who truly listens. Her compassion causes her to take a natural interest in everyone who crosses her threshold. Many locals who over time have shared personal concerns compelled her to become a community advocate. She and her partners even donated the life-sized sculpture of an eagle’s nest (that previously adorned the parking lot entrance) to the Dorchester Heritage Museum. Connie has an outgoing personality, but she is also a humble person of deep faith. With a soft-spoken voice, Connie shared, “While my business is my vocation, listening and helping people is my calling.”

Realizing the three women worked alongside one another for decades, I asked Marilyn the secret to their harmonious relationship. With a fond look in her eye, Marilyn replied, “As children, when Connie and I had disagreements, our mother (who was an only child) would sit us down and remind us that we were blessed to have each other. So… over the years we have always looked out for each other with loving care.”

There is a special warmth and character to this store that everyone enjoys. The store is laid out in such a manner that wandering around becomes a treasure hunt, with each turn revealing another panorama of extraordinary offerings. So, when heading to the beach, take the time to drop in and experience the unique world of Bay Country.

For further information, visit baycountryshop.com

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