Garry’s Gill of Severna Park recently celebrated its 30th year of business in April, and throughout those years, the restaurant has kept to a simple yet successful philosophy of hiring a great staff, serving quality food and creating a family atmosphere.
“I have a great staff; it’s all about them,” said current owner Eddie Conway, who began his career as a teenager cleaning dishes. “I have a very simple philosophy of making sure we take care of people who come into our restaurant.”
Conway’s approach to great customer care comes from his early days at Garry’s with the then-owner Garry Anderson, who sold the restaurant to Conway 13 years ago.
Conway enjoys telling a story recalling when he was a server and a customer wanted peanut butter with his breakfast. He knew the restaurant didn’t have peanut butter, so he sprinted across the parking lot to High’s, bought a jar of peanut butter, and sprinted back to give it to the customer. The only thing that Conway forgot was to remove the price tag from the jar.
That Marriott type of service philosophy was what Conway instilled in his staff during the hiring phase of interviewing candidates. “Basically, I get a feel for the person during the interview and see if they have that ‘yes’ mentality for our customers,” Conway said.
When a regular client comes into Garry’s Grill, he or she is greeted by name and a warm, caring conversation. Several staff members have been there several years and have become “like family” to many customers.
Deena Hahn and her husband have been coming to Garry’s Grill for 20 years and liked sitting at the counter (before COVID) and have become close to several staff members, especially Jennifer Newbauer.
“I have had great conversations with many staff members over the years and they have become a big family to me,” Hahn said. “There are some days that I’ll do the trifecta (breakfast, lunch and dinner) at Garry’s, and even if I come in by myself, I never have felt alone because of the staff.”
Hahn also appreciates the continual acts of kindness the staff does for her. Hahn, who doesn’t have children, receives a Mother’s Day card from the staff as they have become her family members over the years.
Many of those servers have been with Garry’s for numerous years. Angela Deaton, who has worked there for 15 years, says the best part of her job is the regulars and seeing them several times a week.
“I love seeing the regulars and they have become family to me,” said Deaton, who also attributes her longevity to her fondness for her co-workers. “We work very well together, and everyone helps each other with orders and making sure we are providing great service.”
One of those regulars, Beth Strasnick, has found new friendships with other regulars. “We watch Ravens games together, go on vacations and really enjoy each other’s company,” she said.
Another regular, Stan Dewling, remarked that the Garry’s staff and other regulars “have become a second family to me.”
All of these family-centered philosophies were started by Anderson, who first opened Capers in Cape St. Claire and then Garry’s Grill and expanded the business to include The Main Ingredient catering company and Woodfire.
“When I opened Garry’s Grill, I wanted a have a restaurant that was centered on fresh ingredients and being a place where the community felt it was their local restaurant,” Anderson said. “I believed in hiring the right people to carry out my community-centered theme, and one of those great employees was Eddie Conway.
“Eddie always took such great care of people. He is an amazing young man. I was proud to be his mentor.”
Anderson now sells real estate in Naples, Florida, and misses Severna Park and its residents.
This past year has been challenging to Conway and the restaurant industry, and Conway had to adjust his business model to meet the pandemic.
“My thinking during the pandemic was, ‘What can I do to make life easier for my customers,’” Conway said.
On the fly, he changed Garry’s from an in-person business to an exclusive carryout business. He sold groceries and went from 200 to 300 carryout orders to 1,800 to 2,200 carryout orders a week. Garry’s Grill also did boxed-holiday meals.
“My employees worked their tails off to handle those orders and I was happy to keep all of them employed,” Conway said.
The future is also filled with excitement as Garry’s will break ground for the expansion in about two months.
“We will add about 1,200 square feet to the restaurant with an outdoor bar and patio,” Conway said. “The patio will have a retractable roof and windows so we can use it in all weather. We can also utilize this space for private parties.”
Even though Garry’s Grill will expand its physical building, the restaurant will still be known for its warm and caring customer service as well as being one of the centers of the community.
That service is simply stated by Conway and is carried out by his staff. “Being nice doesn’t cost a thing.”