OCEAN CITY — As iconic as the ubiquitous T-shirts and apparel his family has sold for decades, local business owner and patriarch Lloyd Lewis passed away last Saturday at the age of 84.
Lewis, who oversaw the family’s growing M.R. Ducks operations along the bay at Talbot Street, could typically be found on his Talbot Street property watching the goings-on at the various family businesses along the waterfront, from the Talbot Inn to the famed M.R. Ducks gazebo bar, to the extended M.R. Ducks Grille, with its “duck” parties and live music.
For many outsiders, Lewis could often appear almost stoic as he oversaw the daily operations, but for those allowed inside, he was witty, charming and a prankster. Most importantly, he was the founder M.R. Ducks empire with his wife, Gail, and a father-figure to the legions of seasonal employees who worked for him over the years.
Several of his employees past and present fondly recalled Lewis this week. Throughout the recollections, the consistent theme was his sense of humor and again, perhaps more importantly, his fatherly advice to his generation of “kids.” Former bartender and manager Julie Schoenfelder recalled Lewis’ pranks.
“Mr. Lewis loved a good laugh,” she said. “I reminded him of one of the old housekeepers, so my nickname was Clementine. When I’d show up to work, he’d ask me where my sister was, which always got a chuckle from anyone around.”
Katie Tyler, who worked for Lewis and the M.R. Ducks family for years, said the relationship with him went far beyond boss and employee.
“Mr. Lewis was more than an employer,” she said. “He was family to all who worked for him. His quick wit and love of pranks made every day at work fun. He will be deeply missed by all those who frequented Talbot Street.”
Current employee Jessica Shue said she loved her interactions with Lewis on a daily basis, especially at the start of morning shifts at the gazebo bar.
“I loved our morning conversations, his laugh, his smile and his wise cracks when I stuck my head in his office to talk to him,” she said. “I always smiled when I saw him walking to the bar. I couldn’t wait to make him his favorite drink. There will never be another Big L.”
Current employee Forrest Bleinberger agreed Lewis always treated staff as family. He recalled a recent fishing trip with Lewis.
“My favorite memory of him was when he asked me to go seabass fishing with him and some of his friends,” he said. “I was standing side by side with him as we drifted over the structure and for every one I pulled up, he pulled up two,” he said. “Or if I didn’t get any on a drift, he seemed to always get one. He just had that touch to it. He loved to catch sea bass and he out-fished everyone on the boat that day. That’s just an example of how he took care of his employees and friends.”
Lewis and his wife, Gail, opened the M.R. Ducks gazebo bar in the bay adjacent to their recently-purchased hotel at Talbot Street in 1982. The M.R. Ducks Grille was added in 1992 as the business went from selling hot dogs from a bar-top steamer to expanding its food operations to what they are today.
In the beginning, the family ordered T-shirts for the bar staff to wear, but the design was so popular many of the bar regulars wanted the shirts, so more were ordered. From there, the M.R. Ducks internationally-trademarked apparel business now includes signature collections of upscale clothing bearing the famed logos for men, women, children and toddlers. The M.R. Ducks brand has expanded to numerous retail outlets.
A funeral service is planned for Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. at Atlantic United Methodist Church.