Comptroller promotes tax-free shopping at R. Brooks & Son

CAMBRIDGE — Mark your calendar. When Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s visits R. Brooks & Son in Cambridge it means the Shop Maryland Energy tax-free, three-day Presidents’ Day weekend on sales of qualified Energy Star labeled appliances is here.

This year the promotion runs from Feb. 18 – 20 and a chief spokesperson is the comptroller himself.

The comptroller’s office says, “Energy Star Product means an air conditioner, clothes washer or dryer, furnace, heat pump, standard size refrigerator, compact fluorescent light bulb, light-emitting diode (LED) light bulb, dehumidifier, or programmable thermostat that has been designated as meeting or exceeding the applicable Energy Star Efficiency requirements developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.”

According to owner Kemp Brooks, “I got a call one day from his (Comptroller Franchot’s) office the first year to kick it off and he’s done it every year since. This is the 5th year. He lets the public know about all the savings on all the appliances.” Mr. Brooks explained that manufacturers offer heavy support as well with rebates for the whole month. “Normally February was one of our worst months and it has turned into one of our best months.”

Mr. Franchot stood in front of a uniquely decorated refrigerator. The Energy Star appliance is covered with a representation of the state flag done by Mid-Shore Graphics. Mr. Franchot said, “I am here again to salute your wonderful family-owned business and showing us how you’re surviving in these tough economic times. Thanks for letting us swing by and promote the upcoming Presidents’ Day tax free weekend.”

“People can save a lot of money — hundreds of dollars — if they purchase an Energy Saver appliance. The message is ‘if you want to save some money and get a new appliance come to R. Brooks & Sons on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.”

When retired Cambridge treasurer Ed Kinnamon entered the store, Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley introduced him to Mr. Franchot and warmly praised him as “the treasurer when I first came in as mayor” who taught her things she did not know. At that point the comptroller presented one of his well-known medallions to Mr. Kinnamon for being a “Marylander that makes a difference.”

Mayor Jackson-Stanley thanked Mr. Franchot for his visit. She noted, “It highlights our commitment to making sure that our historic business owners like R. Brooks & Son are successful. This (tax free weekend) is a good, economic-based program. People take advantage of it and it really makes a difference. Thank you for being a messenger for us.”

Cambridge Councilman Robert Hanson, and long-time friend of the Brooks family, said, “We always bought our refrigerator and washer and dryers here” and told Mr. Franchot, “We appreciate your visit every year.”

Michael Brooks, who works in the store, represents the 3rd generation of the family that founded R. Brooks & Son in 1968. He says, “I’m not going anywhere.” His mom, Connie, also works in the store. “I was a stay-at-home mom raising my children. When the kids got grown, Kemp was working so many hours I thought ‘well, I’ll come in and work part-time to help out. And here I still am working full time.’” She says the tax-free purchases draw customers, but they often buy a package so while the state may lose money on the sales tax it encourages purchases of other items on which tax is collected.

All in all the decision six years ago by the state legislature to go tax-free for the weekend was a good one. The Energy Star labels on appliances help consumers save money and protect the environment with energy efficient products and practices. No sales tax for three days on those products means more purchases which translates into a more robust economy.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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