Mr. Mars

January 19, 1995

Angelo D'Anna opened the 12th store in his family's chain of Mars Supermarkets almost two years ago in the Harford County city of Aberdeen. As was his custom at every grand opening of a new Mars store, Mr. D'Anna stood at the front door to greet the first shoppers.

Customer No. 1 that day happened to be a woman who had developed a loyalty to Mars from years of shopping at the chain's Rosedale store. Another early arriver was a woman who had become a regular customer just after the first Mars began doing business in 1946 on Holabird Avenue in Dundalk.

In an era when huge national franchises dominate the retail scene, Mars is that rare creature -- a local, family-owned, family-run business that created a substantial niche in its market and yet remains as cozy a fit for its customers as it was five decades ago. The D'Anna family, with Angelo as president of the operation, achieved its standing with smart business practices such as competitive pricing, personal (and personable) service and instilling a neighborhood atmosphere at each store, whether it was in Pasadena or in Lutherville.

Small wonder, then, that the Harford County opening in June 1993 attracted shoppers who fondly recalled their past experiences with Mars.

Angelo D'Anna, who died of congestive heart failure last week at 71, was "Mr. Mars," the guiding force behind this Baltimore business success story. Indeed, his sense of the word "local" went beyond making customers feel at home and using area vendors rather than large outside suppliers. He was also a faithful supporter of neighborhood organizations and events, especially in Dundalk, where people knew him as the patron saint of that blue-collar community. His work on behalf of Dundalk's Fourth of July festivities was particularly generous.

On a larger scale, he served his country as an Army paratrooper during World War II, winning a Purple Heart and other military honors. In fact, his chain was named for a seaplane made for the war effort at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River during the 1940s -- the Mars Flying Boat.

An observer of the local supermarket scene notes that Mr. D'Anna, like most accomplished businessmen, was not without a tough side. But he always said he knew his business best. All he had to do to back up this claim was point to the success of the 12-store chain that earned him a nickname he eagerly embraced -- "Mr. Mars."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.