Meet the Locals: Dick Franyo
It’s 2:30pm on a frigid Tuesday in January. But when you walk into Dick Franyo’s Boathouse Bar & Grill on Restaurant Row in the historic maritime district of Eastport, it’s easy to feel like you’ve just walked off your boat mid-summer. Pictures of local sailors line the walls, as do quirky knick knacks from Franyo’s travels, like an original wooden sign from the renowned Hogs Breath Bar in Key West. An autographed surfboard from singer/surfer Jack Johnson hangs from the ceiling. A long curved bar makes it easy to imagine patrons re-living their most amazing sailing races over cold beers and freshly shucked oysters.
Countless folks—from Franyo’s Eastport neighbors to visitors from as far as France—do just that. Even on this bitterly cold day in the dead of winter, patrons linger over lunch or drinks at the bar mid-afternoon. As Franyo walks through the restaurant, he greets most of them by name. For these reasons and more, it comes as no surprise that the Boathouse Bar & Grill has just been named the third best yachting bar—in the world—by London’s Wight Vodka (first place went to Spain’s One Bar Playa Blanca).
We at VisitAnnapolis recently sat down with Franyo to find out more about the man behind this legendary bar and restaurant.
You’ve owned the Boatyard Bar & Grill since 2001. You were an investment banker for thirty years before that. Why, and how, did you make the switch?
I started [in investment banking] in ’72, and was going to retire in ’02, but I knew there couldn’t be a gap, or I’d go loony. I bought this property; it contained a run-down bar. I rebuilt and opened it in September of ’01, and retired from Alex. Brown & Sons in the spring of ’02.
How did you choose this spot?
When Marmaduke’s left, there was a void for a public place that really catered to this whole zeitgeist, this sailing and boating lifestyle. We’ve done a lot of things to reach out to that community. We built this place to look like an old yacht; it’s every person’s yacht club but you don’t have to join and pay dues.
You get patrons from all over the world in your bar—New Zealand, France. How is it that this restaurant and bar, in an Annapolis neighborhood, is well-known, worldwide.
We’ve done a lot of things that speak to the whole sailing lifestyle. I’m past president of the National Sailing Hall of Fame. We were the official home to the Pirates of the Caribbean boat, the Black Pearl, in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race. That was a big deal. We have a boat that goes out and films all the regattas, from Newport to Key West, and of course the AYC Wednesday Night Races, and we show them here. I could go on and on.
You mention reaching out to the community. Talk a little about that.
Our vision was to do things we believe in that speaks to the lifestyle here, to give back and get to be known. We figured the best way to get known was to do meaningful charitable events. The first lifestyle/charitable event we started was The Boatyard Opening Day Catch and Release Rockfish Tournament. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, and the Annapolis Police Department’s Youth Fishing Camp. The Annual Boatyard Beach Bash we host benefits the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Bands in the Sand, a huge beach party, benefits the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The Boatyard Regatta to benefit C.R.A.B., with proceeds going to Cheseapeake Region Accessible Boating.
There’s an environmental theme running through each of these charitable endeavors. I sense you have a strong commitment to the environment. Could you comment on that?
I was a bay kid. I spent summers in the Hampton Roads corridor. I loved boats, sailing, fishing, crabbing. I saw the bay from the early 50’s, and I saw the decline of the health of the bay-the quality of the water, the quantity of its critters. It used to be you couldn’t go 100 yards without a big pod of bait fish. Now, you don’t see them like that. So, we give a big chunk of our profits to Save the Bay. I joined One Percent For The Planet, where business owners give one percent of sales to approved environmental causes. We recycle, and compost all our food. Composting’s a big thing. It separates the men from the boys (chuckles).
Eastport is the kind of neighborhood where everybody knows everybody else. Years down the road, what would you like your legacy in Eastport to be?
I want people to know that we went beyond what anyone else has done, a factor of many times, in giving back to the community. As for now, I run the business in a vigorous way. I’m here. I watch it. Like any business, you have to work it, and work it hard.