Annapolis without Rookie's

November 25, 1993

No one should get too drippy or nostalgic over the news that Rookie's Market is closing in downtown Annapolis after 45 years. (No, Mayor Al Hopkins, not even you.)

First of all, old-fashioned soup-to-nuts markets with 4,000 square feet of floor space don't exist in the countryside anymore, much less in a small city. And, second, Annapolis, with its teeming tourist market, can be fairly certain that a gourmet shop or some such venue will take Rookie's place.

Dennis Lowman, 47, the owner, said he was simply tired of the 12-hour days. His uncle, F.W. "Rookie" Lowman, and his father, the late A.B. "Honey" Lowman, started the grocery business in the late '40s.

The cozy store behind the Market House still conjures up memories of days when people bought food at the grocery and drugs at the corner pharmacist; when shoppers returned their glass soda bottles and when youngsters bought trading cards that included stiff shards of chewing gum before kids feared that powdered sugar might ruin the cards' investment value.

Places that conjure up sweet memories, unfortunately, succeed better as museums than businesses. Stevens Hardware remains as probably the last service business in Annapolis' once wholly utilitarian City Dock area. It's amazing that Rookie's, wedged between the Ralph Laurens and Banana Republics, hung on this long.

Rookie's wears its history like the age rings on an old oak. Out front is the fortress-like facade, which the Lowmans bricked up in 1968, out of fears that the urban riots would spread to Annapolis. Over there is the beef counter, which was a great hit with customers until Americans became super-conscious about cholesterol in the '80s and stopped buying so much red meat. And that is where they make the fresh salads, another popular mainstay before the state government lengthened its work week a few years back and nearby employees starting brown-bagging.

There must be some irony that in the same month of Mr. Lowman's announcement, the Annapolis Mall on the suburban outskirts of town, where many downtown businesses fled, unveiled a $70 million face-lift, and the Glen Burnie hypermart called Leedmark, which was supposed to be the future of grocery-shopping, went bankrupt. Against the backdrop of such high-stakes business poker, it seems more appropriate to celebrate little Rookie's endurance than to mourn its passing.

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