Friday, April 1, 2011

Gordon's Confectionery in Crisfield

Singing at Gordon's Confectionery in Crisfield
I hope you enjoy the slide-show and story about Gordon's. I pulled a few random photos from my files, some dating back to 2007, for the slide-show after covering last weeks, "sing-a-long," provided by Pat Costello and friends. 

Please allow time for slide-show to load.

I love Gordon's. I love the colorful patrons, comprised of blue collar workers, watermen, retirees, war veterans, widowers, and businessmen, not one of them all that distinguishable from the others because Crisfielders dress for comfort. On any given day, unless there is a politician in town (politicians love Gordon's) - the locals call them, "suits," it would be difficult to differentiate the wealthiest man from the poorest man.  Beginning in the early a.m., patrons jabber, shake hands, and pat each other on the backs as they make their way along the worn gun-metal gray concrete floor to their equally worn chairs or stools of choice. I am not talking about sissy 8:00 a.m. mornings. No siree. Gordon's opens at 4:30 a.m. every day except Sundays, and closes at 9:00 p.m.

At Gordon's everyone is equal, and though a far cry from France or Italy, where people order up cappuccinos and relax for hours in cafe settings as they chat-up topics, owners Kevin and "Cheeseburger" wouldn't blink an eye if you ordered a cup of their famous Maxwell House coffee in the wee hours of the morning (no fancy European coffees at Gordon's, but they make a mean cup of Maxwell House) and sat until the closed sign was posted. It has been that way since 1924. All welcome - all day.  For many, Gordon's is a home away from home, a place where “Tradition”  moved in and set up shop in the twenties, its dusty bags long unpacked with no plans for going anywhere.
If Crisfield is a city, then Gordon's is a city within a city; the regulars its co-mayors and city councilmen, all solving the problems of the city and world.  Just ask a group of regulars sitting around the perfectly centered between-the-counter-and-the-booths yellow rectangled "boardroom" table, the paint worn in all the right places as if some Soho artist had created it for one of those shows non-artists can't quite understand, "What are you up to today?" "Solving the problems of the world." is a common answer as they sip coffees, slurp sodas, and chomp on specialties like scrapple, clam strips, and juicy hamburgers. I enjoy imagining a world designed around the patrons of Gordon's who, besides having some good ideas, know how to make light of world events. They say laughter is the best medicine and there's lots to be found at Gordons with no RX surcharge added to your bill.

Let me step back a moment. Did I say, "men?" Yes, men make up a good majority of patrons that can be found sitting around the "boardroom" table. That doesn't mean woman won’t be found at the head of the table swapping stories with the men. Take me, for instance - I often go to Gordon's for a little R&R or to sit and chat, an occasional click from the shutter of my camera joining in on the conversation. Businesswomen run in for take-out orders during working hours and both teen girls and boys pop in for sodas, ice creams, hamburgers, and French fries, where they lazily sit on replaced but time-worn revolving stools at the counter their grandparents and great-grandparents sat at, and like them, wearing the fashions of the day.

Gordon's has a wide variety of patrons that includes women, families with children, and curious tourists, who want to stop in to experience a slice of Americana.  Many patrons come and go throughout the long day, all watched by the original owners of Gordon's who peer out from ghostly photos in the rear of the confectionery, stationed between the Lipton tea, fresh bread, and a freezer that shouts the special of the day. In one photo, two men, one the grandfather of co-owner Kevin who works regular hours at Gordon’s, the other the uncle of the grandfather, are shown proudly holding shotguns and squirrels. The other photo shows a calm-looking man sporting a white shirt, tie, and hat, his jacket resting nonchalantly on one arm. A pipe hangs in casual fashion from his slightly curled lip. In one hand he holds a dozen or more freshly-caught fish. The other hand has a firm grasp on the handle of his tackle box. One does not have to speculate too long to realize that that is the photo of the original owner Gordon C. Evans. 

Many patrons arrive and leave like clockwork, and though names are not emblazoned on seats, regulars know the seating arrangements. Don't worry about where to sit if you are a newbie. Manners are important at Gordon's, and a regular would gladly give up his coveted seat to a visitor. Don't be shy. Sometimes you have to jump in and break the ice, introducing yourself. Several months ago I took some visitors to Gordon's, introducing them to a few people. Before we left, everyone joined in on welcoming them to Gordon’s. Customers posed for photos with the visitors - even the ever-friendly staff got in on the action. 

This summer, a video crew from a national Belgian TV station will be on the scene. Gordon's is used to visitors, cameras, reporters, and TV crews. It's no big deal to the old-timers, regulars, or the owners. One can tell fame hasn’t spoiled them one bit. Neither cameras nor famous people change the natural order of the day. At Gordon’s it’s always business as usual.

Live music used to be a popular part of Gordon’s culture. It was discontinued a few years ago but is now back by request, but only on certain days, and only until the weather turns hot. When the compressor on the air conditioner is cranked up the noise overrides the music.

As small as this piece of Americana seems when stepping inside, it is a giant among its counterparts, the few that remain, that is. Its iconic status insures that as long as there are people to fill the seats - pick one: torn and tattered, swivel stool, or emergency plastic fold-out, Gordon C. Evans and his glassy-eyed fish will continue to be on duty, watching over present and future generations as they enjoy his world, a time and place when time moved a little slower and people took time to say, “Howdy neighbor.”

~ ~ ~

Date to remember: April 29, 2011 - Upcoming Exhibit at the Tawes Museum to feature the first-ever public viewing of Gordon’s, “Live and Dead Box.”  What exactly is that? Gordon’s used to keep photos of regular customers in a box on the premises. When someone died, their photo was moved to the “Dead” box. Curator Tim Howard has done a great job  putting this exhibit together. Entertainment will be on hand with catering by Gordon’s. How cool is that? Hours 5 - 7. That’s museum hours, not Gordon’s hours, so don’t show up at 4:30 a.m. at the museum. Those are p.m. hours.

~ ~ ~ 

 Thanks to co-owners Kevin and Cheeseburger, shown respectively, for keeping the legend alive.

Oh, and don't forget the food. It's great, and the regulars swear by it.

Check out the next "singing" at Gordon's on April 9, at 7:30. That is a.m.! Music provided by County Grass, shown below.

No, they won't be wearing those hats at Gordon's. I took this photo at another event.


Ryan Sterling said...

Great slideshow and commentary!

Douglas said...

Patty, you are a great salesperson an ambassador for Gordon's, as well as our great town of Crisfield. We appreciate your sincere enthusiasm in making our hometown proud of its resources.


Patty said...

Thank you, Cheeseburger. I just capture the essence of Crisfield, and it is full of stories, history, and beauty, so being an "ambassador" is both easy and enjoyable.

Patty said...

Ryan, glad you enjoyed it.