History

Conrad’s Ruth Villa … “Who Is Ruth?”

That’s the question that is asked most often of the Conrad family by its customers and visitors. To learn the answer requires you to go back in time to the year 1931. Once you have returned from your journey, you will understand not only who Ruth was, but you’ll also understand why it’s no accident that Conrad’s has become the leader in on-premise catering.
 
It all began with Fred Conrad Sr. and his wife Bessie. Fred Sr. was a master plumber who operated his own plumbing business from a storefront in Baltimore City. The Depression dried up work and caused some of his clients (general contractors) to default on payments.


In June of 1931, Fred Sr. bought a 15 acre peninsula from a Mr. Samuel Bass. Fred saw this as an opportunity for a fresh start. Mr. Bass had rented out summer cottages located on the property to families from Baltimore City. He had named the property “Ruth” Villa, after a favorite granddaughter.  After Fred Sr. purchased the property, he just tagged “Conrad’s” onto the name. Over the years, many who visited the Villa would mistakenly call Bessie “Ruth,” thinking the name had originated with her.

Fred Conrad Jr. was just 2 years old when his family relocated from Waverly in Northeast Baltimore to Frog Mortar Creek. The resort business was also hurting, so the Conrads thought they would try chicken farming, beginning with coops already on the property.

In 1933 the area suffered what Fred Jr. described as “a hundred year flood.... Bowleys Quarters was water, from peninsula to peninsula.”  When the water receded the Conrads reassessed their plans.

“My mother had some experience in the restaurant business, so we decided to cook the chickens. My mother started serving chicken dinners on the porch, and when prohibition ended, we opened a bar in the basement of the house.” 

The first customers where fisherman, hungry after long mornings angling for bass and pike. “We had a tough row to hoe” Fred Jr. recalls. “We trapped muskrats to help pay the mortgage. My father would skin them, and a furrier would come around to buy the pelts. It was $1.50 then for a brown one and $2.00 for black. Fishing, crabbing, catching muskrats, and shooting squirrels — that was my youth.”

By 1939, business had outgrown the family’s porch and basement. Conrad’s built a roomy catering hall and kitchen at the tip of the peninsula.
Then came the Second World War, and Fred Conrad Sr. went to work at the Maryland dry dock shipyard. With the war's end, opportunity knocked: Maryland Dry Dock needed a place for a company picnic and it chose Conrad’s. The family has been hosting such events ever since. Conrads has continued to expand their client base by offering more variety, both in menu and venue.

In 1995, environmental changes prompted the search for ways to better utilize the land without negatively impacting the environment. As a result, most of the summer cottages were torn down and in 1999 Parkside Marina emerged.

In 2004, Fred Jr's son, also named Fred, joined the Family business full-time after leaving a 31-year career in the electrical industry. Father and Son worked side-by-side, representing three generations of a family tradition. Progress continued with various improvements to the park, grounds, and surrounding structures. In 2008, the younger Fred drew up plans to reconstruct the old farm house into a modern facility that would double as a home and office. Details in design were carefully considered to preserve many of the architectural features of the farmhouse, including additions to efficiently handle the day-to-day business flow. Even the internal dimensions and layout of each of the rooms were considered in order to properly house the family heirlooms. The project was completed in 2010, and now serves as a central hub and anchor for the business operations at Conrad's.

 

In 2010, Fred Conrad, III was joined by his oldest of three sons, David Conrad, to become a full-time partner at Conrad's Ruth Villa. David also moved from a career in the electrical industry, marking four generations of tradesman who have brought their unique skillsets to a constantly evolving business model. Their passions and vision remain rooted in their core values that strive to deliver the most positive and memorable experience to each client, while preserving the environment and rich history of the Villa.

Today, we operate a catering service from three of our on-site venues: The Villa, The Heron's Nest, and our newest venue, the LookOut. No matter what your group size, we have the perfect venue to meet your needs and will provide a unique experience that is hard to compare. In addition to the catering services, our 126-slip floating dock marina at neighboring Parkside Marina remains one of the area's most pristine marinas on the Bay. Parkside Marina is a certified "Clean Marina" and is entering its 15th year of operation.

Well, as you can see, we have been doing this for a long time. The Conrad family would like to thank you for taking the time to read and learn about their rich family history and the magic of the Villa! It is our hope that you will have the opportunity to visit and experience the magic for yourself. Whether you find yourself attending a wedding or corporate event, a baby or bridal shower, or maybe you will extend your visit and dock your boat at Parkside making us your second home...whatever the circumstance that brings you to the Villa, be sure to look us up and say hello. We want to hear about your experience, thoughts, and comments. Oh, and one last thing: the next time you hear someone ask, "Who's Ruth?" help us share our story and rich family history!

Menu Selection & Event Quote Form
(Select a menu for your event and we will contact you with a quote.)
 
 
This site maintained by Digital Renaissance Group, LLC / P.O. Box 72014 / Baltimore, MD 21237
877-426-4823 / www.digitalrenaissancegroup.com / info@digitalrenaissancegroup.com