There is something incredibly charming about wealthy people who are humble, kind and aware.
That was always noticeable with Shirley and Brice Phillips. Their inspirational story, from operating a humble Hooper’s Island seafood processing plant to an internationally recognized company, represents Ocean City in so many positive ways. It’s the quintessential homegrown, feel good story about two entrepreneurs who built a business through hard work. It’s similar to some other families’ stories in Ocean City, but there’s something special and unique about the Phillips brood and the magnitude of what has taken place over the years since the small market opened in 1956.
It was pleasure to know Brice, who died in 2011, and Shirley, who died last week on Christmas Day. They came to Ocean City after running the A.H. Phillips and Son processing plant on Hooper’s Island for Brice’s father for more than a decade. Once in Ocean City, they started with a carryout market on 21st Street that grew slowly but surely into what is today a block-long restaurant that specializes in seafood and employs hundreds. It’s one of many successful restaurants operated today by the company.
Although they retired many years ago and left the operation of the business to family members, they lived their early days in Ocean City working long hours and inspiring locals over decades.
Senator Jim Mathias summed up Shirley Phillips well this week a few days after her death.
“Shirley Phillips is a legend and a true matriarch of Eastern Shore and Ocean City hospitality,” he said. “Shirley’s work ethic, business sense and positive, energetic attitude along with her lifelong love for Brice and family has been an inspiration to generations of people here in Ocean City, on the Eastern Shore and throughout Maryland.”
When Phillips Seafood is thought of today, many people think of its vast operations across the country as well as its international presence. For those of us who carry Ocean City close to our hearts, that success is not what comes to mind immediately.
We think of an industrious, humble couple who came to Ocean City when they were young to sell their excess crabs in the summer season. While their intent was simple, what they found in Ocean City was a forever home. They ran their businesses here and served millions of people over the years. In addition, they played significant roles in our community by volunteering and leading numerous initiatives that changed this area.
Shirley’s death this week is not only significant to the company she co-founded but also to the Ocean City she was proud to live in and be a valued community member.