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Eastern Shore Town Was Always Quaint, But Now It's Officially Cool

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Berlin, Md. has always been quaint — but now it's cool.
Town of Berlin, Md.
Berlin, Md. has always been quaint — but now it's cool.

In Maryland, one of Worcester's County's most historic spots has just been crowned "America's Coolest Small Town" in a national online. Still, the town of Berlin has been going through an economic renaissance for years and has now become the model for small town success on the shore.

Walking down Main street in Berlin is kind of like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting. There's a century-old hotel, a 1950s-style burger and shake joint, antique toy stores, boutiques, and bakeries. There's even a cobbler still in business.

But while quaint and charming have always been words to describe this coastal town, there's a new adjective that's been preceding its name recently — "cool."

Berlin beat out 14 other small towns in a month long nationwide online poll to win the crown of "America's Coolest Small Town." Berlin took in almost 40,000 votes, running away with the title in a margin of victory that resembled Dwight Eisenhower's two presidential wins over Adlai Stevenson.

Now town officials hope the buzz turns into business.

"We've heard from folks who won it last year and they told us to hold onto our pants because it's just going to be phenomenal business for the season, for the year," says Michael Day, Berlin's economic development director.

But the economic growth has been happening for years in Berlin. Almost all commercial space is filled with thriving little mom-and-pop shops, special events like the annual fiddler's convention draw in huge crowds, and foot traffic on Main Street continues to grow — even in the offseason.

Back in 2008, when the economy tanked, Day says the town's merchants, with the backing of the mayor and City Council, banded together to ensure that Berlin continued to market itself and use its greatest assets: its historic charm and its friendly townsfolk, to draw new people to town.

The plan worked so well, Day says, that Berlin has quickly become the model for other small communities on the shore.

"We didn't just create things out of the blue, we looked at what our strengths were and played on them and moved forward with that. Yeah, I think other communities can do the same thing," he says.

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