Leaving the relative security of his job as store manager at Food-A-Rama supermarket to open his own grocery was like leaving home again for Henry T. Baines Sr.
"It was leaving the known to go to the unknown. Yes, I was very nervous about it, until we opened the doors. Once you're in a situation, it's not worrying anymore, it's survive," he says.
Survival then, in 1978, meant routinely working 14 hours a day, seven days a week at his store at 4450 Park Heights Ave.
Survival now means expanding and improving the 11-store chain of Stop, Shop & Save supermarkets he owns with another longtime Baltimorean, Edward Hunt.
A native of Wilson, N.C., Mr. Baines arrived in Baltimore in 1962 with little besides a high school diploma and a determination to overcome the poverty he had lived in all his life.
While most of his friends were pursuing higher-paying jobs with the postal service, Mr. Baines took one as a clerk at Food-A-Rama supermarket.
For the next 12 years Mr. Baines gave Food-A-Rama his best day's work, and he was rewarded with promotions to grocery manager, assistant store manager and store manager.
By 1978, Mr. Baines felt he had learned enough to begin a new learning experience as an entrepreneur, and opened his first store at Park Heights Avenue. Seven years later he open his second store at 790 W. North Ave.
In 1986, Mr. Baines and his close friend, Mr. Hunt, owner of two E & S Supermarkets in the city, decided to combine their advertising dollars and change their stores' trade names to Stop, Shop and Save, and the growth continued. Today there are 11 stores in the Stop Shop & Save chain, with the most recent store opening a few months ago at 1907 W. Pratt St.
A walk with him through his North Avenue grocery reveals Mr. Baines' insistence on quality. To the unrehearsed eye, the store is nearly immaculate. Clerks stand neat and at attention behind computerized scanning checkout counters. But even as he is accepting praise on the market's appearance, Mr. Baines is directing his employees to some products that have fallen a few degrees out of alignment on the shelves. Then, a 20-cent discrepancy in the price of a package of walnuts had put him in a dark mood.
"I don't ignore these things," he says. "Your customers are your life blood. When I was working as an employee, I used to greet people as 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.' You've got to show them respect. When you run your business right you are showing them that you respect them."