Shawn Harman Reflects on Three Generations of Ocean City Business, from Boardwalk Motels to the Bustling Bahia Marina
By Grace Silipigni
The Harman family first took root in Ocean City in the mid-1940s. Their arrival spurred a revolution in the motel industry and ultimately a multi-generational love for the coastal community. “When my grandfather, [Ridge Harman], came to the area, he built several motels, including the iconic Alamo along Route 50,” says Shawn Harman, grandson of Ridge and current owner of Bahia Marina. “He also built the late Sea Scape Motel [in 1954]. It had the first freshwater swimming pool in Ocean City.”
Harman’s father, Bill Harman, caught the tourism bug shortly after Ridge’s Sea Scape debut and opened his own inn, the Ocean Mecca Motel, with wife, Kathleen, in 1958. “My father was also a plumbing contractor at the time,” explains Harman, “but he and my mom focused on the motel, which later provided the funding needed to buy the marina.”
When Bill and his business partner purchased the marina, it was a humble operation of six boats and four engines. “They bought the marina in 1970, later tore it down and replaced the original structure in 1974,” remembers Harman. “Within those four years, they’d gotten the [fleet] up to 35 boats. They’d rent them out and people would line up to get them for the afternoon. This was before jet skis [and pontoons], so it was a big deal.”
Growth of Bahia Marina continued exponentially after 1974. The on-site restaurant, Fish Tales, was incorporated in 1983, expanded in 2000, and now boasts coastal cocktails and beach fare to be enjoyed on the dock, at the bar or by the beach. The Harman family assumed ownership of both the marina and bar in 1995 and have worked tirelessly to transform the venue into the sportfishing headquarters that it is today.
“We rent everything from stand-up paddle boards and kayaks to headboats, charters and Cruisin’ Tiki Boats,” says Harman. The headboats, Judith M. and Tortuga, can carry up to 85 and 48 anglers, respectively, and offer all the equipment necessary to fish wahoo, bluefish, tuna, mako shark and more. Bahia Marina celebrates the biggest catches during its three yearly tournaments – Blues for DU, Flounder Pounder and Poor Girls Open, the world’s largest billfish release tournament for women to benefit breast cancer research.
Also on the Bahia Marina property is a state-of-the-art playground. The run-aground pirate ship park was the brainchild of Harman’s wife, Donna. “She used to run an in-home daycare. She would, with the permission of the parents, bring the kids over to [Fish Tales] while we were renovating the beach. Watching them play with their toys is what gave us the idea to build the playground,” says Harman.
Lastly, Bahia Marina makes a conscious effort to protect the Ocean City waters too, the playground of Harman’s youth. “I’d come home from school and go fish if there wasn’t surf or if it wasn’t too cold,” remembers Harman. “We all enjoy the water, so we don’t want to mess up the environment.” Bahia Marina’s water-friendly efforts include the use of biodegradable and recyclable plasticware, solar panels and avoidance of plastic bags. “We [also] recycle our fryer oil and recently won Green Restaurant of the Year. We are one of Maryland’s few designated Clean Marinas, too.”
Fish Tales Bar & Grill
Both located at 22nd Street & Bay