The company now has locations nationwide, selling Maryland-style crab cakes with seafood imported from Asia.

“It’s a wholly different company now,” Brodie said.

Harborplace has experience changes of its own.

The mall struggled to hold on to nonfood tenants, locally owned boutiques and gift shops, to the point where people began referring to Harborplace as “the food court of the Inner Harbor.”

And by the early 2000s, besides Phillips and a few other sit-down restaurants, most of the Harborplace eateries were, indeed, more appropriate for snacking than dining.

Hoping to lure back the locals, General Growth Properties — which emerged from bankruptcy protection last year — attempted to give the mall something of a culinary makeover. In 2005, the company introduced four new restaurants to the Pratt Street Pavilion. They included Tir Na Nog, a white-tablecloth Irish pub; La Tasca, a Spanish tapas restaurant; Edo Sushi; and a Five Guys hamburger joint.

Several merchants in the Light Street Pavilion said Friday they had just heard the news about Phillips. None was pleased.

Harold Simms, longtime manager of The Flag Shop, said he was especially sorry to see the departure of a Harborplace fixture — one of the few in business longer than he has been. “For 22 years, they’ve been my neighbors,” he said. “Any closed door here is not good for business.”

Recently, Harborplace managers seemed to have decided the mall’s future is in retail, not food. They trumpeted the recent opening of Swedish retailer H&M and the 2006 addition of Urban Outfitters in the Light Street Pavilion.

Brodie says Harborplace would be smart to go after a tenant like that to fill the 20,000-square-foot hole Phillips will leave.

“I don’t think more food is necessarily needed,” he said. “Food is not necessarily an awful thing, but it’s a less interesting thing for a consumer.”