The Quail gears up for St. Patty's Day
John Dux said he had his work cut out for him when he became owner of The Quail in Fenwick Island, but his pub and restaurant is finally getting to where he always envisioned it.
Dux has enjoyed a long, successful run in the local restaurant business since his move to Fenwick in 1974, giving a start to names like Electric Circus, Back of the Rack, Nick’s Original House of Ribs and JR’s Steaks and Ribs in Ocean City. The Quail is one of the few restaurants in the area that stays open throughout the off-season.
After working for corporate companies, Dux decided that he wanted to be his own boss, and pursued other jobs. “There’s only a certain point you can get to when you’re working for other people,” Dux said. “You can only get so far. I’d rather be sitting back and working my way up slowly, like I am here.”
His time outside of the restaurant business saw some success, as he operated a music store in Fenwick Island, where Antique Junction now resides. “That was a lot of fun working there,” he said, “but its time was then, not now. It’s not the same business as it one was.”
Profit declined as customers started completing their collections, then even more drastically as CD’s came around. By the time online downloading became common, Dux realized that the music industry had taken a drastic change for the worse. From then, he decided to return to the restaurant lifestyle and purchased The Quail, which had seen its changes of hands and names — most recently as Fiddler’s Green, a locals’ Irish pub.
Though the name is now The Quail, this St. Patrick’s Day, Dux still anticipates a crowd-pleasing environment, complete with $3.99 corned beef and cabbage, happy-hour drink prices all day and plenty of Irish music to get customers into the spirit.
“There’s always a great group of people on St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “It’s the biggest day we’ve got.”
A good part of the success comes from changes he made when he bought the restaurant. Dux wanted to revive The Quail, first opened by George Kronen as The Quail’s Roost, a hunter’s bar. “Roost” was dropped from the name when the business was sold years later. Then, following another change of owners, a completely new approach was applied.
Dux had been a customer at The Quail long before he became its owner. He hated to see the change of atmosphere when Fiddler’s Green began, but was not shocked that business began to drop.
“St. Patrick’s Day should be something you celebrate once, maybe twice a year,” said Dux. “It’s hard to make it work year-round, especially in this area. You sort of pigeon-hole yourself when you make it an Irish bar. It’s a tough nut to crack.”
Dux said he wanted to promote St. Patrick’s Day to the fullest without doing it every day of the year.
Dux said he is thrilled to see more and more customers coming in each week to his restaurant, despite the fact that it took five years to get this way.
“It takes forever to get rid of a bad reputation,” he said, “and a day to get rid of a good one. Everyone remembers the old place, and not a lot came in, but I’ve had people stick with me and be here since I’ve started, and it’s really good to have that.”
His head chef, Mike Marciano, has really helped hold a lot of the restaurant business together. “He’s really brought the kitchen around,” said Dux, “and my bartenders have been with me for four years now. People really appreciate you giving them the free range to do what they want. I recognize my employees like responsible adults.”
Dux mentioned that he has gone through more money and time than he wish he had, and might have fared better if he started from scratch on his own. “It’s tough, I’ve got some of the best customers in the world, and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Dux has experienced some tough times in the past year, including a kitchen accident that sent him to Johns Hopkins’ burn center and a quadruple bypass surgery last summer.
“People stuck by me through everything,” he said, customers and employees alike, “and it makes you realize how lucky you are when you have something like that. What it really comes down to is you have to make enough money to survive and be happy. There’s a lot more to being happy than there is to having a lot of money.”