By Steve Adams
With a complete lack of fanfare, Annapolis Seafood Markets on Forest Drive made the announcement May 15 on its iconic roadside sign, complete with flashing lights and a red crab above it, on which it had announced its daily specials for decades. The message: “THANK YOU FOR 40 WONDERFUL YEARS. GONE FISHING.”
Opened by Nick Bassford in 1978 and operating 363 days a year, the family-owned business was not only a popular go-to for fresh seafood, especially blue crabs and lobsters, but also for a full menu of grilled, fresh, and fried carryout items and platters. At its peak, it distributed to Baltimore and Washington, operated additional locations in both Edgewater and Severna Park (before closing them in 2013 and 2019, respectively), and even managed a food truck.
The business made no formal announcement regarding its reason for closing and did not respond to requests for comment from CBM Bay Weekly or questions from a plethora of Facebook commenters who expressed their sadness at hearing the unexpected news.
However, a lengthy Facebook post by Brad Kappel, senior vice president at TRR Sotheby’s International Realty and the son of Bert Kappel, ASM’s longtime sales manager, reflected on its long and somewhat unknown history.
“The End of an Era… after 44 years, Annapolis Seafood Market just closed its doors,” he writes in part. “Back in 1978, my dad converted a gas station on Forest Drive into a simple produce and shrimp stand. The business grew quickly and eventually became Annapolis Seafood Market which proudly offered the freshest seafood in the region. That was the year I was born and I grew up playing at the market before school, often going to school smelling of fish… I worked there for many years and had the time of my life. I am extremely proud of my dad and how successful ASM became … an Annapolis institution.”
“My father opened multiple locations and brought fresh seafood to the masses,” stated Kappel, “often working 7 days a week in order to deliver the best service and quality products. He invented AIR CRAB which shipped fresh MD crabs anywhere in the country in 24 hours.”
While the market did not announce any form of grand “closeout sale,” both in-the-know and happily surprised customers were able to enjoy 50 percent off everything on its final day in business. The owners also posted a banner announcing that the bright blue Annapolis Seafood food truck is for sale, perhaps presenting an opportunity for another business to start or expand.
Annapolis Seafood Markets spoke to us at the beginning of the pandemic when the seafood industry was taking a hit and had to turn to direct-to-consumer sales to stay afloat (see our story: https://chesapeakebaymagazine.com/video-bay-seafood-sellers-shift-to-direct-sales-amid-pandemic/).
As for what’s next for the high-visibility location, an inside source doesn’t think it will be long before the property changes hands. “People have been knocking on the door for years,” said the property’s manager.
But at least one thing’s for sure: the drive up and down Forest Drive, free of a flashing seafood sign, won’t look the same.