Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, center, talks to Westminster City Councilwoman Ann Thomas Gilbert and Carroll County Commissioner Richard Weaver, right, during a visit to Pub Dog Brewing's newly renovated tap room in Westminster Monday, July 22, 2019.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, center, talks to Westminster City Councilwoman Ann Thomas Gilbert and Carroll County Commissioner Richard Weaver, right, during a visit to Pub Dog Brewing's newly renovated tap room in Westminster Monday, July 22, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week doesn’t start until Aug. 11, but Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot visited Westminster a few days early to kick-off the annual event at The Liberty Shop in downtown.

The cost in Maryland sales tax is about $1 million each year, Franchot said, but it’s worth it for the increased sales across the state.

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“Maryland consumers are saving the day,” he said.

Maddy Voytek, of the Maryland Retailers Association, also promoted a scholarship for students in college and trade schools in Maryland that is tied to the tax-free week. To enter, students need to take a photo while shopping downtown and post the image to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ShopMDTaxFree.

The Liberty Shop has been in Westminster for about 25 years, said owner Lynn Aaron, in a renovated house at 39 Liberty Street. The store has a wide selection of Maryland-themed gifts and apparel.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot highlights the economic benefits of Maryland's sales tax holiday during a visit to the Liberty Shop in Westminster in Westminster Monday, July 22, 2019.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot highlights the economic benefits of Maryland's sales tax holiday during a visit to the Liberty Shop in Westminster in Westminster Monday, July 22, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

For the tax-free shopping week, she hopes customers will realize they can shop downtown, local establishments and still take advantage of the tax savings.

The initiative applies to apparel and footwear costing $100 or less and the first $40 of backpack purchases. They will be exempt from Maryland sales tax.

Before leaving, Franchot purchased a baseball cap with a Maryland flag lining and a Labrador embroidered on the front.

Pub Dog Brewing

Earlier in the day, Franchot visited the newly renovated tap room of Pub Dog Brewing in Westminster off of New Windsor Road, and was joined, by state, county and local representatives.

Brewer and President George Humbert talked a little about the renovation, as well as his experience of the regulatory side of the brewing business.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, left, presents a challenge coin to Pub Dog Brewing owner George Humbert during a visit to the Westminster brew pub Monday, July 22, 2019.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, left, presents a challenge coin to Pub Dog Brewing owner George Humbert during a visit to the Westminster brew pub Monday, July 22, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Humbert has been part of the Maryland brewing industry since 1994, when he characterized the regulations as “more abrasive” than today.

“Maryland has really opened up to breweries in the last 10 years,” he said.

Franchot praised the brewing industry for it’s collaborative nature, with brewers working with each other as well as with local agricultural producers. Humbert said he had purchased hops from a Maryland farm just that morning.

With legislation in the past session of the Maryland General Assembly, Franchot predicted that the number of breweries in the state would double quickly.

Three are currently operating in Carroll County, with one, Brewery Fire in Taneytown, looking to open within a month and two more in the planning stages.

Dave Palmer and Jesse Johnson, the entrepreneurs of Brewery Fire were also there for the Pub Dog tour. The two have collaborated in the past.

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As Del Susan Krebs, left, and Pub Dog Brewing owner George Humbert look on, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, right, highlights the positive economic impact of the alcoholic beverage industry to the state during a visit to the Westminster brew pub Monday, July 22, 2019.
As Del Susan Krebs, left, and Pub Dog Brewing owner George Humbert look on, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, right, highlights the positive economic impact of the alcoholic beverage industry to the state during a visit to the Westminster brew pub Monday, July 22, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

“We need new young innovative entrepreneurs moving into the state ... young people working hard, earning money and paying taxes,” Franchot said. He believes the brewery business is one that’s appealing to millennial both as business people and consumers.

Carroll County commissioners Richard Weaver and Stephen Wantz were in attendance, and said they were proud of the industry and wanted to do what they could to make things easy from the county regulatory side. In March of 2019, the Board of Commissioners voted to allow breweries to operate in properties zoned restricted industrial where they previously were not able to.

The taproom at Pub Dog has been open for about eight months, with the new look completed about two months ago. One of the biggest updates was expanding to 20 taps, meaning they can have every one of their brews on tap.

And what’s the hardest type of beer to brew? A pale ale.

“It’s like painting a white wall in your house,” he said. Any imperfection is much more apparent.

More information about the tap room and the brewery are available at pubdog.com.

Other stops in Carroll

Franchot started off his tour of Carroll County in Mount Airy at the Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue before heading north.

For the final stop of the day, the party traveled to Hampstead to visit Simmons Home Made Ice Cream and owners, the Neudeckers.

The longtime family ice cream business is the recipient of the 2019 Carroll County Cornerstone Award for local business excellence.

One business in each county of Maryland is chosen to receive the award, which honors “businesses that strengthen Maryland’s economy, generate jobs and tax revenue, develop new ideas that more effectively deliver services and products within the marketplace, and are a leader in their local community,” according to the Office of the Comptroller.

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