Howard market wins customers by bucking superstore trend

September 22, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

In a time when supermarkets are getting larger and more impersonal, at least one store appears to be surviving despite bucking the trend.

It probably doesn't hurt that Boarman's Old Fashioned Meat Market, selling everything from hard liquor to hog brains, is in Highland, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the Baltimore-Washington area.

"Mr. Boarman is the nicest man you'll ever meet," said Darlene Schott, 36, as a fresh ham and several bags of groceries were being loaded into the trunk of her BMW 325i convertible. "I don't want to hassle with a Giant or a Safeway, because this is convenient and its fully stocked and everyone's so nice."

For nearly 40 years, Florentine "Larry" Boarman has been making his family recipe sausage, buying and selling produce and helping stranded motorists at the intersection of Routes 108 and 216 in Howard County. To many Highland residents, the store is synonymous with the community. When Highlanders give directions to their homes, the route invariably includes a reference to the store.

But despite his long history as as shopkeeper, Mr. Boarman, 72, did not start the business.

His father, the late George L. Boarman, began an A&P Tea Co. franchise in Northwest Washington during World War I, then launched the first Boarman's Market over the Maryland line in Mount Rainier about 1933.

"I've been involved in it all my life," Mr. Boarman said, recalling his duties as his father's right-hand employee.

Mr. Boarman drove the delivery truck, picked up used milk bottles, collected eggs from the store's chicken coop and ran the store.

"We used to kill our own hogs, sell live chickens," he said.

Today, Mr. Boarman gets much of his produce from Westminster, where Hahn's Meat Co. supplies the fresh and smoked pork the store is known for. Eggs and other produce come from other suppliers, including produce from the Maryland Wholesale Food Market in Jessup.

Brian Cunningham, a 58-year-old entrepreneur who lived for 23 years in Highland and continues to stop by the store after moving to Potomac, said Boarman's is more than a place to get groceries.

"It's a wonderful store to come to. Not only do you get food here, but you get camaraderie," he said.

Despite its country-store charm, Ms. Schott's visit convinced her that the little country store can compete with huge supermarkets.

Preparing for a party, she had made a list of 25 items. including a fresh ham. "Everything was here," she said.

The crowded cinder block market has 23 people on the payroll, including seven family members -- grandchildren, a son, daughters and Mr. Boarman's wife and their daughter-in-law, Theresa Boarman.

"She didn't know when she said 'I do,' what she was saying 'I do' to," said Mr. Boarman's daughter, Elizabeth Connolly, who keeps the stores books along with her sister-in-law.

Mr. Boarman said his wife, high school sweetheart Rosette Licausi, has kept the business going even when the ledger didn't balance.

"She has done all the books, and she puts up with me," Mr. Boarman said.

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