Ocean City shop offers cozy spot to sip wine, read a book

OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Ocean City is home for Mickie Meinhardt.

It’s where she strings together memories like seashells on a necklace — from the countless hours spent out on the water surfing to lying on the beach with a good book in her lap to maybe meeting friends at a local bar and toasting some cold beers after a long day.

So, when Meinhardt returned to her hometown after more than a decade living and working as a writer in New York City, she realized that she wanted to create a space that celebrated Ocean City and the people that made it such a vibrant place.

That’s how she gave life to a new business that is unlike any other in this Maryland resort town.

The Buzzed Word opened last year as a combined bookstore, natural wine store and wine bar. A hidden gem tucked in a strip of retail shops and cafes near a Food Lion, this cleverly named business fills a need that some may have not even realized was there.

“One of my favorite things to do was always, like after work, to have a nice quiet drink with a book or to journal or even to sit and talk with a friend over a snack,” Meinhardt said. “And there just isn’t really a space for that here.”

Known for its often tourism-driven businesses that scream to visitors with bright colors and signs advertising crabs or margaritas, Ocean City delivered when it came to bars that flowed with loud music and orange crushes.

But when it came to finding a spot with a quiet atmosphere—one where people could lounge on layers, browse books or try new wines over good conversation—that’s where Meinhardt thought she could give something back to her community.

And it seems like a whole lot of other people are grateful that she did. The Buzzed Word has only been open for about eight months, but Meinhardt said she constantly hears from people who thank her for opening this new space for them.

Not only do they no longer have to travel to Salisbury or Bethany Beach to visit a bookstore, or hunt for natural wines but many of them are simply glad to have a relaxing space where they feel welcomed.

Like the wines, Meinhardt works with her team to handpick the books and ensures that the authors and characters represent all kinds of identities like those in the LGBTQ and Black communities.

She recalled one customer who said he often didn’t look forward to visiting Ocean City when he was in town to visit his grandmother, but once he saw himself on the covers of these books, that perspective changed. He now loves coming to Ocean City and stopping in this shop that features queer and minority voices.

Meinhardt said that is probably one of the most rewarding parts of owning this business.

“The coolest thing about The Buzzed Word is that it’s Ocean City’s and only Ocean City’s,” Meinhardt said. And I want people to feel proud that we have something awesome here, and that it’s for them.”

FROM INSTAGRAM TO WINE BAR

Now a sleek store with eclectic furniture, a pink neon sign featuring the logo of a wine bottle emerging from the open pages of a book and a 14-seat bar with an elegant black and white marble counter, The Buzzed Word first began as a fun Instagram account.

After spending years reviewing books and delving into her favorite authors’ works, and then later discovering more about the vast world of wine, Meinhardt started posting her reviews with wine pairings on Instagram.

This online community soon rallied around her idea and branched into a live event series called Books & Bottles in which authors would talk about their books over a carefully selected bottle of wine.

Books and wine? It was a fated match.

Then, the pandemic swiftly pushed every gathering over to Zoom. Meinhardt returned to Ocean City to spend time with her sick mother and soon cleaned out her Brooklyn apartment of eight years to move back to the Eastern Shore.

All the while, she had this thought of transforming this Instagram account and the Books & Bottles events into a brick-and-mortar store. The vision started forming, and she worked to make it happen.

Now, with a small team of employees, she’s starting to feel the rewards of all her effort.

“It’s really kind of gone beyond what I’ve even dreamed it would be,” she said, “because people have been so grateful that we’re here.”

A NEW CHAPTER FOR COMMUNITY

A sense of community is the consistent tasting note at The Buzzed Word.

It’s felt when a customer walks in and chats over a glass of wine before he checks his watch to make a hair appointment next door.

It’s also in the contagious laughter that reverberates off the walls as the local UPS delivery guy tells stories about his recent trip to Costa Rica as he places a package on the back counter.

It’s what Meinhardt set out to create — a place where people could come together and feel welcomed.

From the hand-written notes describing each bottle of wine to the diverse voices represented on the pages of the books, “every little part of this space is personal,” Meinhardt said.

As people return to getting together in person, she has also offered opportunities for book and wine clubs, wine tastings and pop-up events with other local businesses like Gilbert’s Provisions.

When she considers what’s next, she said she wants to encourage more people in the community to shine and use the space; musicians, artists, readers and writers — they’re all welcome.

“Anything that they love and they want to use this space for, I hope it feels open and welcome for that,” she said.

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The Buzzed Word, 11805 Coastal Highway, Unit C, Ocean City, Maryland, Open Monday and Sunday 11 am-7 pm, Tuesday-Thursday 11 am-8 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-9 pm; 410-520-5452; www.thebuzzedword.com

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