James Rada, Jr.
With the announcement that a Thurmont landmark, the Shamrock Restuarant, will end its 56-year-run on December 30, 2019, The Catoctin Banner thought it would share some of its reader’s memories of the Irish-themed restaurant.
The late Mike Fitzgerald opened the Shamrock in 1963. He said in a 2014 interview that the restaurant had a rough start, “There were days and nights in a row that I wouldn’t go home. I would be working here doing whatever needed to be done, and then I would sleep here.”
The Shamrock Restaurant building has been around since the 1950s. It was originally a dance hall that didn’t have the best reputation, resulting in Fitzgerald being able to purchase it at an affordable price.
It also helped that the Shamrock Restaurant was a family business. Fitzgerald, his wife, his mother, and his nine children (as they grew old enough) all worked in the restaurant. Two of the Fitzgerald children, Dawn Knox and Donna Demmon, took over the business in 2016, but they are ready to retire.
The Shamrock was known for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and it won a national award for having the best St. Patrick’s Day party in the nation years ago. It was also the first restaurant in Frederick County to get a liquor license in 1965.
The website announcement of the closing reads in part: “We have worked with hundreds of employees, many of whom have been as close as family. It will be very hard to part with some who have worked with us five to thirty years; others who worked here many years ago and came back as the seasons of their lives have changed. And more recent, workmates who already fit into our operation just like the old-timers. What a wonderful gang!! We have met and become friends with thousands of patrons. The warmth and affection that permeates this business is the root cause of our longevity. We cherish the kindheartedness and loyalty we’ve been blessed to know from our staff and customers.”
Shown below are postings on the Shamrock Facebook page of what some had to say about the restaurant closing, sharing their memories and speaking their own personal “goodbye.”
“I have been coming to the Shamrock since President Nixon stayed at Camp David as a member of the White House Press. Mike and I became friends, camped, and rode horse back in the mountains. My family and children enjoyed Mike’s cabin and wonderful food at the Shamrock, watching Mike’s family grow up. I have known Donna since she was a little girl and their dogs chased me on top a table.”
“I was so happy to have the opportunity to eat there last month…and am so glad I bought my t-shirt as a remembrance. The first time I ate there was at our EMI class graduation dinner back in 2009. Living in Texas, it took a decade to get back again. My husband and I were traveling in the area, and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to a place that held such a special place in my heart.”
“I read this with mixed emotions. Sorry to lose an icon in Frederick County but am happy for you, Donna and Dawn. You have worked hard. Your parents would be so proud of you both.”
–Nancy Ferrell Piper
“So sad to hear this, but it is time for you to get to relax and enjoy quality time together. Will miss being able to talk with you, Donna, about Ireland and Irish relatives. And the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant. Also the delicious food.”
“What a wonderful place! We always stop by there and eat on our way up to PA. Will be missed! Always had great fresh food and wonderful service! Bought several baubles over the years in the front part of the restaurant.”
“Great place! I will always remember the good times at the Shamrock when I lived in Thurmont during the 1970s. Happy retirements!! Who gets the crab cake recipe?”
“May you all enjoy your new lease on life! My husband and I discovered the Shamrock a few years ago as we drove to Herndon, VA; it was the best discovery we ever made. Whenever we made that trip, we would plan our time so we were at the Shamrock by afternoon or mid-day. We certainly agree that you all have done wonderful work and we do appreciate your hospitality!”