Simon Harris is scheduled to go on auction block


September 30, 1992|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

Simon Harris Sporting Goods, a 105-year-old downtown institution that prided itself on its clutter, has apparently sold its last lacrosse stick.

The store at 220-222 N. Gay St., along with its inventory and fixtures, will go on the auction block Nov. 5 after two banks foreclosed on the business several weeks ago. Unless someone buys the entire business along with its trade name, Simon Harris will apparently go the way of Hamburgers, Hutzlers and other crumbled pillars of Baltimore retailing.

According to papers in Baltimore's Circuit Court, Provident Bank of Maryland, which holds a lien on the inventory and a second lien on the building, filed Aug. 10 for a judgment that Beck & Beck Inc., which bought the business from the Harris family in 1987, owed $141,116.

On Sept. 15, Maryland National Bank filed a foreclosure action against Beck & Beck's 222 N. Gay St. Inc., claiming the business owed it $192,605 on a mortgage loan taken out in 1989.

Irving and Charlotte Beck, the owners, could not be reached for comment.

Simon Harris, "Your Old Friend" to generations of Baltimoreans, was a throwback to a more colorful era of retailing. The Sports Authority it wasn't, but its unkempt charm was unusual enough to win it a 1985 write-up in the Wall Street Journal.

The old brick building was on the "wrong" side of downtown, cut off from the city's center by the Jones Falls Expressway. Gym shoes, sweat shirt and sporting equipment were heaped to the ceiling with no apparent organization.

The store's inventory was a virtual Smithsonian of sporting goods. A 1988 article in The Sunday Sun described boxing gloves dating back to the 1920s, football pants from the era of Jim Thorpe and baseball mitts from the days when players shunned such sissy frills as padding.

Befitting a place where grime was no crime, prices were dirt-cheap.

The business was founded by Simon Harris in 1887 and remained in the family for a century before his son, Sam, sold out and retired.

After the Becks bought the business, they added locations on Park Heights Avenue, Monument Street and Eutaw Street, but the expansion was apparently unsuccessful.

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