We’re used to hearing about grand openings, anniversaries, and celebrations that had to be canceled or postponed as the world dealt with a pandemic. In many cases, these inadvertent pauses allowed the planning of an even grander festivity than initially imagined. Such is the case with Foxy’s Harbor Grille of St. Michaels as they prepare for their 20th — or as owner Terye Knopp calls it, 20+1 — Anniversary Party. And, she assures us: it’s going to be epic!
No, Knopp hasn’t owned the establishment the entire 20 years, but she plans on collaborating with those who used to call Foxy’s theirs. This includes Arthur Webb (of Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company fame), who started Foxy’s and then sold it to Steve and Deena Kilmon, who sold it to Jon Lewis, who, around ten years ago, sold it to Knopp. Each owner, says Knopp, left a lasting legacy to the institution, and instead of burying their accomplishments, she plans on making it a significant part of the celebration.
Legacy is important to Knopp; it’s part of who she is. Her family has an Eastern Shore connection that goes back five generations, starting on Tilghman Island and ending in St. Michaels. But there is something else that defines her, and it’s all about her search for ‘blue skies, the white sand, and the palm trees.’
The search for that dream was so strong that in the winter of 1997, she took a job as a chef on a private cruise boat that went to — yep, you guessed it — the Bahamas, the Caribbean, St. Maarten, and St Bart. She might have continued doing that for an indeterminate amount of time were it not for a marriage and a pregnancy that brought her back to the Shore and the start of her restaurant experience. The couple ended up buying and running Madison’s West End Restaurant (named after their daughter) in St. Michaels for several years until a divorce changed her direction once again.
Returning to her original training as a dental hygienist, Knopp accepted a job in — not surprising — Florida’s Key West, where she and daughter, Maddie, got to enjoy her dream for a while. But there was another feeling that started to intrude into that dream. The legacy part that reminded her not only how much she missed her family and her town but also, surprisingly, the restaurant life.
That’s when she got a phone call from her good friend and former Foxy owner. “Deena (Kilmon) called saying that Foxy’s was for sale. I thought: ‘wow, there’s my opportunity! Let me give it some thought.’ It didn’t take me even 24 hours to decide. It was right in my hometown and small enough (it was just the patio at the time) that I could do it by myself, and it was seasonal, so I could still go and get my skies, sand, and palm trees.”
And so she bought it, and over the ten years, she made some changes to her patio: creating a bigger kitchen, expanding the drink menu, and adding a large selection of craft beer. Foxy’s became a hot spot, and it wasn’t unusual to be put on a two-hour waitlist. Foxy’s had outgrown its space. And that’s about when the adjacent property, formerly the Town Dock restaurant, became available in 2019. It was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
Knopp put into motion a plan that would keep the patio casual but ‘bump it up a notch’ once people came inside. She hired an executive chef, upgraded the menus, and started remodeling. The improvement ideas included seating areas, two indoor bars, a gift shop, tropical colors on the walls, tables overlooking the harbor, and space for events.
Once the renovation was completed, it was time to introduce the new Foxy’s. An opening event was planned for Wednesday, March 18th. Invitations had gone out, $15,000 in liquor and over $10,000 in food had been delivered, when on March 16th, the Governor shut down Maryland.
Looking back, Knopp said, “We made it through COVID. It was tough, just like it was for everybody. We learned how to do takeout, even though we didn’t want to do it, but that’s what the world wanted. Takeout was very popular, especially in March, April, and May. Then, once we got into the season, the marina was full every day, and people wanted to eat. So again, we had a captive audience, and we made it through the year.”
This brings us to 2021 and the epic commemoration that didn’t happen but is about to. “I want everybody that’s ever worked at Foxy’s, that’s been a fan of Foxy’s, that has become family of Foxy’s, or a friend of Foxy’s to come.”
So for all those people, the 20+1 year anniversary party is happening on October 3rd from noon to six. The main portion will be held on the patio, and two local and very popular bands, JCT 33 and Bird Dog and the Road Kings, will entertain. The plan is for Foxy’s former owners to attend and celebrate their legacy. For that, Knopp has created a special Owner’s Menu.
“When Arthur Webb opened, he advertised Foxy’s as the ‘home of the 10 oz Martini.’ We’re not going to sell 10 oz Martinis, but we will have 5 oz glasses for $5.00 and signed by Arthur. The Kilmons introduced the Crab Pretzel, and we’ll have that on the menu. Jon Lewis’ claim to fame was the hugely successful Orange Crush. So we’re going to roll back to 2006 prices and sell them for $6.00. My contribution is the Island Dog, which is literally a jalapeno hot dog that is grilled and rolled in a taco shell.” That’s only a small part of what is being planned for that day.
As Terye Knopp described plans for the event, and throughout this interview, there was another Knopp who quietly filled in additional detail, answered employee questions, and ran errands. Daughter Maddie. She is the next-generation restaurateur, being groomed to take over Foxy’s. There is no doubt she’s ready. “I have been working here since I was 12, starting as a bus girl, then as a hostess, then a server, and then I bartended for a few years. Over the last two years, I’ve been really involved in the managerial aspects of running this business.”
Is there anything she would do differently? No, Maddie said. “I think that my mom has created a tremendous opening opportunity for me to come in and learn the ropes. I’m a restaurant kid. I know what I’m walking into, and I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.”
For now, both Knopps are preparing for this party and looking forward to Breakfast with Santa, which they’re hosting on December 11th. The event, which used to be held at the Town Dock Restaurant through 2016, will now be at Foxy’s.
Something else keeping Knopp busy is her involvement with the newly formed St. Michaels Restaurant Association, whose function is to represent the 31 qualifying members. “The restaurants in St. Michaels are the largest employer, and if you put all the restaurants together, we employ over 450 people. Our goal is to be a solution-based organization working with our local government and neighboring businesses so that we can give our visitors the best experience possible.”
It appears as if Knopp is here to stay. And, if you wonder what happened to the yearning for blue skies, white sand, and palm trees, well, it seems as if she’s realized that you don’t necessarily have to leave to find your island vibe. “Foxy’s has become a destination,” she said. “it’s not like they come to St. Michaels and find Foxy’s. They come to Foxy’s and find St. Michaels.” So, for now, the white sand may be a challenge, but we’re sure she found her blue skies and the palm trees.
Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.
www.foxysharborgrille.com 125 Mulberry Street St. Michaels, MD (410) 745-4340 For more information about Christmas in St. Michaels, go here: Christmasinstmichaels.org