Don your World Cup T-shirt, then sit ringside with Schaefer

THIS JUST IN ...

June 24, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

About a week ago, Russ White and his partners at Shocker Inc. T-shirt wholesalers, working out of an old broom factory in southeast Baltimore, figured American interest in the World Cup to be on a level with American interest in Afghanistan-rules lawn bowling.

"Minimal interest" is what Russ and his partners, Mike Shock and Randy LeFaivre, figured. So they made a minimal investment in T-shirts commemorating the world's biggest soccer tournament.

They printed a few dozen T-shirts themed, "United Colors of Soccer," featuring a globe superimposed on a soccer ball and the flags of 12 nations. They set up shop on the concourse near the Washington Metro stop at RFK Stadium before both games Sunday and Monday. They sold out -- 48 the first day, 96 the second.

"Zero inventory" is what it's called. T-shirt guys love "zero inventory."

The next game at RFK is Tuesday, Italy vs. Mexico, and the Shocker boys will be there for another piece of the action.

Ringside with the guv

My favorite lame duck governor, Don Donaldo, was spotted last weekend at the World Wrestling Federation's "King of the Ring" extravaganza, a sellout at the Baltimore Arena.

He went with race track honcho Joe DeFrancis. The arena staff set up front-row seats and a security detail -- to keep all the governor's screaming fans away -- and a good time was had by all.

"King of the Ring" was a pay-per-view deal. If you get it, check out the ringside crowd and look for that familiar gubernatorial face with his mouth agape at Rowdy Roddy Piper. In case you didn't know, the Don's a big fan.

Big banks and tuna melts

You can't get to the Light Street Deli from Light Street, not directly anyway. You have to enter the lobby of the Maryland National building, make a left and head down the staircase. The deli is right there, where it's been since the 1930s, serving breakfast and lunch to customers in the basement of one of downtown Baltimore's grandest skyscrapers. The marble counter-top is still there. So are the wooden booths and the custom-made cabinets behind the checkout counter. Minus a few modern touches -- the soda case, the yuppie coffees, the sign that says, "Our reputation is at steak" -- it looks as though it hasn't been redecorated since Truman was president, which is the effect the present owners set out to achieve when they took over five years ago. If you haven't been, and are so inclined, do it fast. The deli is closing for good, and that'll be the end of hot tuna melts one flight below Light Street.

Here's the deal: Diana and Ed Gately bought the business for about $100,000. They leased the space from Maryland National. Maryland National, in case you haven't heard, has been gobbled up by NationsBank, the humongous banking company. The building is being renovated -- gold leaf on the roof, that sort of thing -- and the Gatelys were told basement space was needed for "storage." The bank gave them two months' free rent and asked them to vacate by the end of July.

What are the Gatelys doing? Preparing to leave. Ed is so bummed out he doesn't even come to work anymore. "This was his dream, to have a business of our own," Diana Gately says. "Now we'll have to go back to working for someone else."

L Is this a case of big, bad bank beating up on little people?

After talking with Dan Finney, spokesman for the bank, I'm not so sure. He says the Gatelys were told a year ago the basement would be needed during renovations. Since then, the deli has been operating with a month-to-month lease. "They knew this was coming," Finney says. Supplies and equipment will be moving through the basement during renovations, preventing the 600 or so people who work in the building from going down there for breakfast or lunch.

Easy for me to say, but it sounds as if the Gatelys ought to look for a new location. Make a good tuna melt, the world will beat a path to your door. Buck up, Ed.

Stamp the staple scam

Mark Adams, snooping around for his upstart community newspaper, says he has found a handful of bars and restaurants in Fells Point and Canton that have been targeted by what appear to be Staple Scam artists. "Ah, yes," said an employee of one of the targeted eateries, "the ol' staple-in-the-crab-cake trick." According to Adams, a man and woman, who say they are from Harford County, have been visiting local establishments, claiming to have found metal staples in food, either in takeout orders or in happy hour munchies. Adams rattled off six places that paid off or rebuked the couple. "When they claimed they found a staple in food, it was always the most expensive item, usually a crab cake," Adams found. A cheap trick, for sure, and an old one at that. But this kind of scam has a contemporary edge; it exploits a fear shared by the owners of all small businesses -- the fear they might get sued. Message to restaurateurs: If a guy shows up, says he's from Harford County and that he just found a staple in his crab cake, tell him he's nuts; you run all your crab cakes through a metal detector.

Oops, I goofed

In Wednesday's column, I incorrectly placed Kingsville in Harford County; it's in Baltimore County. In This Just In of June 6, in an account of Eva Salomon's experience leading up to D-Day, visas were incorrectly referred to as passports. Sorry about the slips.

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