sy Shamrock Restaurant closing 2

Sisters Donna Demmon, left, and Dawn Knox of the Shamrock restaurant in Thurmont announced to their staff that the restaurant will close for good after Dec. 30. The sisters are shown in the parking lot of the restaurant, which was opened in 1963 by their parents, Mike and Doris Fitzgerald.

Dawn Knox was 13 and Donna Demmon was 10 when they began working at Fitzgerald’s Shamrock, their father’s restaurant in Thurmont. After more than 56 years, the sisters have decided to retire and close the restaurant, a beloved staple in town.

The restaurant’s last day of business will be Dec. 30. Employees were told on Sunday night.

The owners, who took over the family business in 2016, announced the news to their customers in a short bulletin left on tables and in Thanksgiving pie orders, the top of which read “Go raibh cead mile maith agaibh,” translating to “a hundred thousand thanks to you” in Gaelic.

After spending so long in the restaurant business, the family is looking forward to some rest and relaxation. Demmon and her husband, TJ, recently celebrated their 70th birthdays.

“Not to make them feel over the hill, but to help everyone understand, it’s time to change our pace,” they wrote in the announcement. “It’s time to enjoy each other, take in some new vistas, let someone else set the table, take the order, cook the food and clean up the mess.”

The land, which is owned by the family, is for sale.

“It’ll be an immense loss for our community. It’s hard to believe they’re actually going to close,” Mayor John Kinnaird said. “The Shamrock is definitely a landmark restaurant in Frederick County.”

Demmon remembers meeting her husband at the Shamrock in 1972. He was a Marine stationed at Camp David and would come in sometimes to sit at the bar and have a drink. After a couple of visits, the pair got to talking. They’ve been together ever since.

She also has many memories of sitting and working with her father, Mike Fitzgerald. She returned home to Thurmont after graduating from college in 1971 to help him run the restaurant, and ended up staying.

“We would spend a lot of time talking and figuring things out, things he wanted to change and then I would follow through with them,” Demmon said. “I was a very lucky girl to be able to do that.”

The restaurant opened in 1963, when Mike and Doris Fitzgerald bought the abandoned and neglected restaurant. Mike’s mother, Naomi, moved to Thurmont to become the restaurant’s first cook. She developed the recipes for the crab soup and crabcakes that the restaurant still makes today, according to Issue 5 of Vol. 41 of the Shamrock Shenanigans newsletter.

Mike Fitzgerald, in addition to owning and running the restaurant, made many strides for Thurmont and Frederick County. He was the charter president of the Thurmont Tourism Council and helped start Colorfest, which was originally a festival dedicated to fall foliage and nature walks. He also served in several other roles at multiple organizations, many of which were volunteer-run.

Knox and Demmon are two of nine siblings who all worked at the restaurant at some point.

The Shamrock plays a large part in Thurmont’s history. It was the first restaurant in Frederick County to obtain a liquor license that allowed cocktails. The restaurant had live music and dancing every Friday and Saturday night. A pianist named Potsy would play a lime-green upright piano, and oftentimes local combos would play shows.

The last music performance at Shamrock’s will be on Thursday, Dec. 19, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Rocky Birely will play the saxophone.

Knox said that she will miss interacting with the people she got to see every day.

“This is our hometown,” she said.

Demmon agreed.

“I just got a hug from someone who has been coming here since 1964 as a very young lady. She was a ballerina in Germany, and she came to give me a hug because we’re not going to be able to anymore,” she said. “These people, these customers are a very big part of it, and that’s going to rip at the heart.’”

The pair will also miss their more than 35 employees, most of whom have been employed at the restaurant for between 10 and 30 years.

“I’ve seen people who worked many decades ago, and they bring me their children and ask that I give them a job also,” Demmon said. “We’ve had several generations of people work here, bring me their daughter or son, and then they bring me a daughter or son.”

The restaurant will remain open through Dec. 30. It is closed on Tuesdays.

“For a long time, I’m going to miss it every day,” Demmon said. “And this departure hurts very much, but it’s something I have to do.”

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley.

(21) comments


Sounds like someone is on the Garryowen payroll LOL


If you're referring to my comment, ASStronaut , you'll also know that I referenced O'Lordan's too.

Comment deleted.

Amen! I try to not let politics affect where I eat, but that pathetic "Get the U S out of the U N " sign was too much for me. Bob Lewis

Comment deleted.

Is that supposed to be funny? Because if it is, it isn't.

James Duke

This old man is 85 years old now. Save my place at the bar. Look for my plaque.



Good people, an area legend. Being there always felt like a warm hug. The prices were reasonable in my opinion and not anymore expensive than most downtown Frederick restaurants. I do hope someone will buy the property and continue the tradition. And keep those beautiful mountains views out of the hands of developers.


This has been our go to place for family dinners and holidays for years, and I will really miss it! The service, location and décor is wonderful, and yes their are places in Gettysburg that are also nice,, but this place will be missed by many of us.


As far as I’m concerned, the Shamrocks closing is no big deal whatsoever. I’m a native of Frederick County and have only been to it about three times. It’s a pitiful, way overpriced excuse for a restaurant that bills itself as “Irish-American.” They only have four selections that they consider “Flavors of Ireland,” and only one of which I would consider authentic Irish, the Shepherds Pie, which, at $20, is ridiculous. Fish and chips? Nothing but breaded fish with French fries and can be purchased at any Long John Silvers, but is $19.50 at the Shamrock. Compare the Shamrock’s “Irish” menu, and prices, ( with the menu of Garryowen Irish Pub up in Gettysburg (a real Irish pub founded in 2007 by Kevin and Jo Ann McCready from Co. Armagh, Ireland,, ) and which has REAL Irish food, and also compare the Shamrock to O’Lordan’s Irish pub over in Westminster ( Proof that the Shamrock is waaaayyyyyy overpriced. As a final note, I prefer Tullamore Dew Irish whisky (if you want to see what was considered some of the cleverest advertising ever, do a search on YouTube for “Tullamore Dew commercials.) A shot at the Shamrock is $8.50, the same shot is $5.00 at Garryowen. Bottom line, as I said, in my opinion the closing of the Shamrock is no big deal.


KR999 Well, looks like they did ok. Fifty-six years is a good run.


Yes, 56 years is a good run. And the old saying "A fool and his money are soon parted" comes to mind.


Absolutely agree! I also thought (and hoped) about a cookbook. Enjoy your well deserved retirement Ladies and I'll always have fond memories of your wonderful restaurant.


Would love to see them put together a cookbook for sale that features all of their recipes. Everything there was homemade and always delicious. Their salad bar, although small, was always amazing.


Went here once or twice a long time ago. Food was good, but expensive. Suspect someone will purchase it or the commercial property to reinvent.

dancing donna

Looking forward to what comes next. We could use a friendly family restaurant there welcoming Frederick, Thurmont, and Gettysburg.


Very sad to read this. I knew it has been up for sale for awhile. Not sold yet. Always good food and another long-time business gone. I wish the owners the best!


I’m assuming whoever is the current chef would be willing to carry on the recipes for a new owner? Maybe bring it closer to town.


Dia a bheannacht, caillfear thú.


Am golled! Roedd hyn yn wirioneddol yn drysor i Frederick County MD.

Where else could you get shad roe? What a loss for the region. A truly unique dining experience.


As it was for I Gabriel.


I will be more sorry to see this close than I was Barbera Fritchie’s. A true family restaurant. After the other longtime restaurants closed all that’s going to be left are Wa-Wa, Sheetz, Royal Farms and the likes. I guess families just don’t go out as much as families. Too bad!


I believe it is because more people are staying home. Restaurant prices are outrageous! The last time we took our family of four there it was close to $100, and that is certainly a luxury we can rarely afford on a single earners income.

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