The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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Ocean City, Maryland - Then & Now Lots 61 and 68 - “Coffin’s Bazaar”
Part Two: 1920 - Present
by Gordon E. Katz
September 2013

A brief recap of Part One: Cornelius F. “Neil” Coffin purchased lot 61, on the southwest corner of Baltimore Avenue and Wicomico Street, in 1880, and operated a dry goods and novelty shop called “Coffin’s Bazaar” on the premises. After acquiring the adjoining lot 68 on the south side of Wicomico Street, Coffin expanded his operation in 1900. Neil Coffin died in 1920 and the property passed to his sister, Amelia Lankford.
Amelia Lankford died on January 11, 1923. Mrs. Lankford did not leave a will, and a squabble quickly developed among her heirs at law over the division of her property. The matter landed in the Worcester County Circuit Court, with her nephew Charles W. Purnell, the owner of the Atlantic Hotel, squaring off against another nephew, Levin D. Lynch, Jr. – the owner of a fishing company and one of the founders of the Bank of Ocean City – and others. A court order issued on May 22, 1923 appointed two attorneys, George H. Myers of Somerset County, where Mrs. Lankford resided at the time of her death, and John W. Staton of Snow Hill, as trustees to sell the property held by her estate.
The two trustees sold lots 61 and 68 at a public auction to Pocomoke City grocery merchant Roy H. Payne for $5,005. Although the lots were offered for sale as a single property, the conveyance to Payne, issued in July 1924, noted that the dwelling house on the southern part of lot 61, which had been erected by Neil Coffin’s brother-in-law James Z. Powell, was not a part of Mrs. Lankford’s estate, and thus it had been removed from the property.
One interesting footnote to this transaction is that Roy Payne was one of six men arrested on July 3, 1924 in a series of raids conducted in Ocean City by federal prohibition agents. The other arrestees were Samuel Cohen and Charles Barry from Baltimore, the latter a former owner of the Congress Hall hotel in Ocean City, William Ruark from Salisbury, who would later own part of lots 61 and 68, and Ocean City residents Randolph Graham and Thomas Conway. Roy Payne apparently did not change his ways – the 1930 census reported him as divorced and residing in the county jail at Snow Hill.

Roy Payne and his wife Fannie subdivided lots 61 and 68 in 1928 when they sold the northern portion and store to William and Kathryn Rodney. William Rodney was listed in the 1930 census as a laborer doing “odd jobs” and in 1940 as the captain of a private fishing vessel. After the Payne couple defaulted in 1932 on a mortgage they had taken out on the southern portion of lots 61 and 68, Rodney purchased that part as well at a foreclosure sale. The southern portion remained in the Rodney family until 1978, when daughter Frances Rodney sold the property to Ocean City nightclub owner Daisey Mae Repsch.
William Ruark purchased the northern portion of lots 61 and 68 in December 1943, and for the 1944 season converted the former store into an eating establishment called “Ruark’s Restaurant”. Cyrus (“Cy”) Jarvis and his wife Henrietta bought the restaurant in October 1945 and renamed it “City Lunch”. For more than thirty-five years, the City Lunch was a favorite gathering spot for locals, including the town’s politicians, and for a while it was one of the few places to get a bite to eat in the off-season.
During the 1940s, in addition to having a meal at the City Lunch, customers could also try their luck on the slot machines installed there. An article published in The Baltimore Sun on April 5, 1949 listed Cy Jarvis as one of more than 70 Ocean City business owners holding federal licenses for gambling machines or devices.
Cy Jarvis retired from the restaurant business in 1982 and sold his establishment to Charles E. Voss from Selbyville, Delaware. Voss incorporated an outfit in early 1983 called “City Fish, Inc.”, and that may have been the name under which he continued to operate the former City Lunch. The property changed hands a couple of more times before a New Jersey company trading as the “Firehouse Tavern” acquired it in 1995. According to one former patron, the Firehouse Tavern in Ocean City was “a fire department theme grill and bar, which had the back end of an ambulance for the front door, a firefighter video game, [and] anything related to the fire service throughout the place. They even had patches from different fire departments [from] around the state and other places.”
The Firehouse Tavern closed after the 2001 season and was sold to Ocean City Dumsers, which tore down the old structure. Dumsers later acquired the southern portion of lots 61 and 68 from the estate of Daisey Mae Repsch in 2010, and razed the existing buildings on that site as well. Today, all that remains of the former Coffin’s Bazaar and City Lunch is a parking lot for Dumsers’ employees.

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