Fisherman’s Inn, Grasonville, MD

Fisherman's Inn has been the go-to-place for fresh seafood on the Chesapeake Bay since it first opened in 1930. Located just off Blue Star Memorial Highway near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a new digital sign beckons visitors to the area to stop for dinner or pick up the day’s fresh catch at the adjacent Seafood Market.

The restaurant is usually open year-round, while the Crab Deck, an outdoor dining area that opened in 1991, and the Seafood Market, are usually open April through October to take advantage of seasonal demand. But when the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Fisherman’s Inn was forced to close and delay the opening of the Crab Deck.

Their recently installed digital sign became a landmark and a beacon for information about restaurant hours and ever-changing information for their customers, which contributed to Fisherman’s ability to weather unexpected events. The sign was a key marketing tool when the Crab Deck finally re-opened – first for carry out, then for outdoor dining.

“The Watchfire sign allowed us to change up our messages as we opened in phases,” said Andy Schulz, co-owner of the restaurant with his two brothers. “When it came time to open the Seafood Market and Crab Deck, we cranked up the sign so people knew we were open for carry out, and then we were able to add messages when outdoor dining resumed. Finally, when indoor dining was allowed, we advertised that Fisherman’s Inn was finally open.”

Schulz looked at a number of sign companies and ideas before awarding the project to Phillips Signs of Seaford, Del. Their design includes the Fisherman’s Inn and Crab Deck logos above a high-resolution Watchfire LED display. The tight pixel pitch of the sign allows the restaurant to display stunning photos and graphics that showcase the meals and beverages inside. “I didn’t just want to plunk a message center in an old sign; I was looking for a new design. This was a big investment for us, and I wanted it done right,” said Schulz.

“We like Watchfire because we know the sign will be supported and the warranty is really good. We’ve been specifying Watchfire exclusively for 25 years because their signs are reliable and come with excellent support,” said Ben Phillips, president and owner of Phillips Signs. In addition to showcasing seasonal fish, Fisherman’s Inn uses the sign to advertise job openings and to promote its different dining options.

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