Dick Franyo; Living the Life in Eastport
You can tell what is important to Dick Franyo by simply looking at the walls of his restaurant, the Boatyard Bar & Grill on Severn Avenue in Eastport.
There are pictures of sailors - both the famous as well as the not so famous. There are pictures of fishermen proudly displaying that day's catch. And there are pictures of locals, whooping it up at one time or another in the restaurant's neighborhood.
Not found on the walls are articles about the restaurant itself, which have run in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Capital, with one exception - an article that ran in Sail magazine a year ago naming the Boatyard Bar & Grill one of the top 12 sailing bars in the world - a pretty amazing feat for a bar that's only been open less than four years.
"That article was special," Dick says. "We didn't lobby for it. We didn't even ask for it. Someone on his own decided we were worthy of the distinction. It was really great. The article and the magazine really speak to the kind of lifestyle we want to embrace."
Lifestyle is an important word to Dick Franyo. He does not have the words to define it because to him it's more of a feeling: feeling of following your heart, whether it leads you to sailing, fishing, boating, or most importantly, being a steward of the water on which it all happens - the Chesapeake Bay.
In fact, one of the many reasons he started his restaurant was to raise money to protect the bay.
"We wanted the business to give us a platform to generate money for the environment," Dick says. "It's much easier to do it that way than to try and solicit money from people."
Dick uses his restaurant to help protect the environment in many ways, starting with donating one percent of the restaurant's proceeds to the preservation of the Chesapeake Bay. He also sponsors an annual Rockfish Tournament and most recently helped produce a compact disc called "Voices of the Chesapeake," featuring famous artists' favorite songs about the bay. A portion of all of these ventures goes directly toward preserving the bay.
His efforts have been noticed by many, including the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, which presented the Boatyard Bard & Grill with the "Environmental Awareness Award." This award also hangs on his restaurant wall because Dick believes it speaks to the lifestyle he supports just as much as the pictures of sailors, fishermen and watermen.
"The Boatyard Bar & Grill sells itself more by what we believe and not by whether we have a good burger - everyone says we have a good burger," he says, with that friendly, mischievous smile.
From the day Dick opened his restaurant in October 2001, the Boatyard Bar & Grill has been a hit with the local maritime folks. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Recently retired from Alex Brown where he worked as an investment banker for 30 years, Dick wanted to open a maritime bar in his own neighborhood. Eastport, still mourning the loss of Marmaduke's, a beloved sailors' hangout that closed in 1998, desperately needed one.
While it looks completely different from the dark, smoky atmosphere of Marmaduke's, the Boatyard has the same neighborhood charm. The small number of tourists who stumble upon the place will often find watermen bellied up to the bar next to professional sailors.
"We're across the bridge in Eastport, which is off the beaten path from downtown Annapolis," Dick says. "That means we don't tend to get as many out-of-towners as some of the other bars across the bridge. I think the locals are attracted to that. They like to go to the places where there are going to be people they know."
Sitting just a few feet away from the sailors and watermen are families with their young children feeling just as much at home.
"We're very kid-friendly," says Dick, the father of a three-year-old.
Often, Dick himself can be found at one of the tables having lunch with his son, Finley, or a romantic dinner with his wife, Susan. One might wonder why the couple would choose to dine in their own restaurant where the privacy might be lacking. But to the Franyos, the restaurant is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
"We traveled all over the place - Maine, Key West - and took lots of pictures of buildings to try and figure out what we wanted," Dick says. "We wanted something that seems like it is near the water instead of in the city. And after several years, the building has held out. I still like the style."
Although the inside of the Boatyard features an intimate 98-seat dining room, its high ceilings and open atmosphere gives it more the feeling of a yacht club than a restaurant. The numerous photos of sailors adorning the walls, as well as the menu featuring pint drinks, jerk chicken, conch fritters, steamed shrimp and crab dishes, cinch the job.
Telltale signs of the bar's success are the hoards of sailors who come into the restaurant after regattas and the Annapolis Yacht Club's Wednesday Night Races. Crammed at the bar like happy sardines, the crews regale over that day's races, reminded of each near-miss and crash-and-burn by video Dick provides on several televisions.
Dave Gendell, editor of Spinsheet sailing magazine, said Dick has been successful in attracting the sailing crowd to his restaurant because he has long been one of them in his heart.
"Dick loves the water, the boats, and the people along the waterfront," Dave says. "He has so many friends in the marine industry because he is the real deal. You cannot invent the passion he carries on his sleeve. Dick has tapped into the zeitgeist of the Chesapeake lifestyle because he is the embodiment of the Chesapeake Bay lifestyle."
A clear idea of the lifestyle Dick wants to lead is what has guided all business decisions made by him and his wife, including their most recent one to create the Boatyard Market next door in what was formerly a Laundromat. Included in the store will be a deli, a wine selection, flowers, cards, and maritime-based gift items - all the things a person who has sailed into town for the evening might need.
"We want to sell stuff that fits the lifestyle," Dick says. "For instance, my wife recently found some plastic martini glasses at a gift fair. Those are perfect for the kind of people we hope and expect to come into our store."
When Dick is not living his dream lifestyle in his restaurant, he is living it elsewhere, whether on the water or in boardrooms. But these days, he is not sitting on corporate committees, but on ones that are "community-oriented" including the Eastport Civic Association, the Eastport Business Association, the Annapolis Maritime Board and the Ocean Race Chesapeake board.
"I turn down all those corporate boards," he says. "I don't want to sit on boards like that anymore. I want to sit on boards that are good for Eastport, good for Annapolis and, most of all, good for the Chesapeake."