The sky is fading to pink as the sun sets over the Chesapeake Bay in Havre de Grace, Md.
Two sailboats drift down towards houses lined up on the shore each with piers jutting out into the water. Shawn Hamilton comes here after work regularly to relax, especially now that the tourist season is over.
“It’s slow here in the fall, summers much busier. But if you love water, it’s a good place to be,” Hamilton said.
When the season is over, residents are able to take a deep breath and relax without the chaos of having visitors. On the other hand, businesses find it more difficult to let go of the disarray of visitors.
The 41-year-old bachelor didn’t think he would be back in Havre de Grace until he was ready to retire. He comes multiple times a week to Jean S. Roberts Park. It’s walking distance from his home and only a little ways from his job at Cytec.
Having grown up in Havre de Grace, Hamilton shares many good memories with the places around town, like the busy Bomboy’s Home Made Candy. “My mom would take us down there in the summer, all us kids,” Hamilton said.
Bomboy’s Home Made Candy is a popular shop in the town of Havre de Grace. Co-owner Charlie Bomboy grew up helping his father make chocolate when the store opened in 1978.
“We basically started as elementary as you possibly can and we’ve grown over the years. We’re on our 35th year now.”
Charlie, along with his sister Kathy, grew up living and breathing chocolate. Even though they both went off to college, they still came back to help out with the family business. Today, in the basement of the candy shop, Kathy and Barry, owner and father of both Charlie and Kathy, are making chocolate drops for the Christmas season.
“We’re extraordinarily seasonal, Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day. Christmas we start getting ready for usually in September and we’re in full production from here on out up until Christmas,” Charlie said. “Easter is labor intensive. We do a lot of molding. We do a lot of Easter bunnies. Valentine’s Day is two to three days of craziness. It’s last minute,”
When they’re not in season, the Bomboys earn their profits with their other business, the ice cream store. After studying on how to make ice cream in Penn State, Charlie came back and turned the store that once was the chocolate store into the ice cream store in 2001.
“Something we augmented with apart doing the chocolate store is the ice cream story. The ice cream store is open from April to October. It really helps offset, well, some of the months are very slow for us, which is a dramatic difference from what we do across the street, from what we do in December, it just really offsets that.”
When entering the store, you’re hit with an overwhelming feeling of comfort. Charlie is in the back discussing with his wife what chocolates to bring for dessert back home.
“So, after ballet?” Charlie asked his wife, who’s holding their youngest daughter.
“Yeah, that’s why I asked. You’ll bring the chocolate. That’s the dessert.”
Charlie packed a couple of chocolates and hands it to his wife in a customized Bomboy bag. He then kisses his wife goodbye since she’s on her way to pick up their oldest daughter from the bus stop.“The perks of being here is that my parents live above this store now so my daughter comes here a couple days a week and my wife picks her up after work,” Charlie smiled.
For a family recipe, Bomboy Home Made Candy has really flourished. Back in the basement, Kathy is still hovering over the machine, making chocolate drops.
“I’m family so I’ve been helping out ever since I could see over these machines,” Kathy says laughing, “but no, after college, I’ve been here full time. Charlie and I are the second generation and hopefully, our kids one day would want to be third generation.”
Ever since 1978, Bomboy’s has brought good memories to many people. There are even some people that Bomboy’s is fortunate enough to call “regulars.”
“We have customers that walk through the door and they know what chocolate they want and all,” Charlie says.
Back in the park, Hamilton smiles as he goes down memory lane. “Bomboy’s been there for years. It’s been a while since I’ve gone there,” Hamilton said.
Choo choo! The Amtrak train leading into town passes on the tracks above, startling a blue heron that was perched on the rocks underneath. The graceful bird now soars overhead down the shore in the direction of the Concord Lighthouse.
The water swishes under the dock and Hamilton looks from the heron down to the water. Another train whooshes overhead blowing its whistle. Gnats are starting to swarm overhead as the sun drops behind the tree line. It is getting chilly.
“If I win the lottery I’m going back to Florida,” Hamilton said with a chuckle. He just recently moved back into Havre de Grace after living in Miami a few years. “Most of my family lives here, but I can always visit them.” Cars pass behind, but the park’s paved lot remains quiet.
“Everybody knows everybody here.” He taps his feet on the ground underneath the carved up picnic table. “People usually nice around here, but everyone does the same things every week, same bar same everything.”
Hamilton himself is no exception to having a favorite bar. “I prefer MacGregor’s. It’s kind of a bit more classy than Coakley’s.”
It’s 8 p.m. now. The main drag of Havre de Grace is empty, just a few cars parked along the road. The shops are all closed. Only restaurants remain open. Along the Chesapeake Bays water’s edge, MacGregor’s Restaurant and Tavern is lit up with its fluorescent Ravens signs.
All of the TVs are tuned into the Orioles versus Blue Jays game. The front bar is not near capacity, nor is the main dining room. A busboy is rolling silverware in the back as two bartenders run around almost frantically amongst the already seated customers. 26-year-old Krystal Moies is one of them.
MacGregor’s Restaurant has been around since 1987, though it wasn’t always a restaurant.
“Yeah, it’s been a bank, hair school and a few other things,” Moies said. She has been a part of the restaurant for about seven years, working on and off as both a bartender and a waitress.
A customer walks in and sits down as Moies walks out from behind the bar and makes her way over. MacGregor’s has a casual seating policy. “Hello, can I get you anything?” The patron orders a drink and she walks briskly behind the bar, pulls a few select bottles and flips them over in an abrupt pouring motion.
Despite its past, MacGregor’s has accumulated many locals over the years. Some of which have chosen to sit in the booth facing the bar. “We offer many specials during the year for the locals to keep them happy and coming back,” Moies said.
During the colder seasons when tourists are few and far in between MacGregor’s makes ends meet from the return of these loyal customers. Moies on her down time enjoys chatting with these regulars.
“I prefer to work in the summer. Better tips and its much busier,” she said. “It is nice to see a familiar face in the fall though.”
A man and his family sit impatient. The gentleman waves his hand in the air saying “Check please!” Moies punches a few buttons on the computer touch screen behind the bar. Bzzzt bzzzt. The receipt prints. “Here you are, you guys. Have a great night.”
After the family leaves, she picks up the white slip of paper and tucks it into her apron. Moies clears the table and walks back behind the bar where she resumes her conversation with the MacGregor Patrons.
A little ways down the street, Hamilton is taking in the last few minutes left of the sunset. A pair of kids rides up on their bikes, making a loop around the parking lot and disappearing down the street. Another train booms by and silence comes back over the park. The only sounds are birds cooing and crickets chirping in the nearby bushes.
“Duck museum gets a lot of people. I didn’t know that many people were involved in decoys,” Hamilton said, referring to the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum in the summer. Kayakers swarm the bay, and people come down from all around according to Hamilton. “First Friday’s, they play music and shut down Main Street even.”
Hamilton looks back to his phone and stands up. “You take it easy,” he said. He pulls his car keys out of his pocket and jingles them slightly as he walks. The sun has set; you can’t see the other side of the bay now. Shawn Hamilton gets into his car, flips on the headlights and before pulling away, he smiles and said, “[Havre de Grace] It’s where I live. I love it.”