Store Stocked With Personal Contact

April 02, 1995|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

Listman's, the country store that sold liquor during Prohibition in sparsely populated Earleigh Heights, is being surrounded by an upscale, growing community and large, chain food stores that could crowd it out.

But John and Henry Listman say their small family business will thrive because they give their customers what they want.

"We still do everything the old-fashioned way," said John Listman Jr., known as "Toot" to most customers. "I order the food, I put it up [on the shelves], I ring it up and I carry it to the lady's car. How many people you know do that?"

Their customers say there are no others.

"There's no place like this around," said William Musgrave, who has been shopping at Listman's since 1968. "I'd rather come here than chain food stores. Corporations are great, but you need that personal contact."

Three generations of Listmans have served up fresh hand-cut meats, groceries and whiskey since 1929 in the two-story, white building at Earleigh Heights Road and Light Street Avenue.

Even though the store is only one-eighth of a mile west of busy Ritchie Highway, chickens run across the two-lane road toward a huge red barn. The Baltimore-Annapolis trail snakes by the old building where B & A trains once stopped to drop off passengers and supplies.

Automobiles were scarce and farmland was plentiful in Anne Arundel county when Conrad Listman, Toot and Henry's grandfather, purchased the store 66 years ago. The elder Listman worked as a blacksmith's assistant for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad during the day, while his wife, Louise, ran the store. He stocked the shelves at night.

During the Depression, Conrad Listman worked 15-hour days, delivering goods from farmhouse to farmhouse in his Model T coupe to keep the business going.

The couple raised their two children, John Sr. and Dorothy, at the store. In 1959, John Sr. and his wife, Jackie, bought it. They worked as hard as the older couple, opening the store at any hour to accommodate neighbors.

"We hustled," said John Sr., "We had to." The couple raised 10 children on the income from the store.

John Sr. frequently got out of bed in the middle of the night to serve hungry firefighters who had been battling a blaze nearby, his wife recalled.

"It was a different world then," she said.

Ten years ago, Toot and Henry bought the store where they learned their trade. Kurt, another brother, works there with them.

Although the county has changed dramatically since they were young, things still are pretty much the same in the store. They still run tabs for their customers, they still cash checks, and they still carry groceries out to the car for their elderly customers.

"It's just a family-run place that's been an old-time tradition for years," Henry said.

An antique scale sits between the two narrow doors of the store's entrance. Inside the building, a working red antique peanut roaster, blackened by years of use, stands in the corner, and Toot, dressed in a pair of jeans, jacket and a baseball cap sits at the cash register.

Down three long aisles stocked with Mason jars, whiskey, vegetables and grits, brothers Henry and Kurt tower over the refrigerated case that displays fresh meat.

The brothers are all tall, broad men, with thick, wide hands and warm smiles.

Henry and Toot speak in gruff, booming voices as they joke with their patrons, many of whom they grew up with.

"It's a good old-time store," said Donald Wallace, a seven-year customer who calls the brothers "the best butchers in town."

The meat department is the backbone of the business, according to Toot. Every day, they get shipments of whole beef sides and quarters. The meat ages on a hook in the walk-in refrigerator until Henry takes it out and cuts it to a customer's specifications.

"You can come up to the counter and you can talk to the butcher," said Henry, who runs the meat department with Kurt. "We give them more of the special attention."

And the attention doesn't cost the customers more, he said.

"Those gourmet stores will charge you gourmet prices," he said. "If you come in here and want something cut special, we don't charge you extra for it."

Customers say its the personal touch that keeps them coming back.

"This is the only place I buy my meats," said Sally Wilbur, who has been a customer for four years. "It's so neat to be able to come into a place and talk to the people who are in charge of the store. They are such neat guys," she said.

But Henry said what the brothers do for their customers is just their form of advertising.

"Our business is word of mouth," he said. "Generation after generation of treating people good."

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.