Tradition of grocers nears end Last generation: Chris and Pat Kron are closing their Woodlawn meat and deli shop Monday. After 41 years in the grocery business, the third generation will say goodbye to 82 years of family nostalgia.

April 27, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

To their customers, Chris Kron and his wife, Pat, are more than just the owners of Kron's Meat and Delly Sandwich Shoppe and their Woodlawn store has been more than just a place for a quick bite to eat.

The market they have operated for 41 years at Windsor Mill Road and Gwynn Oak Avenue was a place to come for good food, friendly conversation and maybe even a hug from Pat and Chris, as just about everyone calls them.

"I've seen generations of kids come through here," Mr. Kron, a third-generation grocer, said this week as he glanced out the front window for one of the last times as owner. "The children I knew now have kids of their own, and some of them are parents."

Come Monday, the Krons will bid farewell to their beloved store and customers, ending an 82-year family tradition in the grocery business. The couple -- both 66 -- said age, health problems and their family have convinced them it is time to retire.

"It had to come some day, but it's so hard," Mrs. Kron said, sighing. "We made not only customers, we made friends."

The new owners, Bong and Jung Bae, plan to remodel and convert the store into an eat-in and carryout deli only. When the renovation will begin was undetermined. They plan to be open for business Tuesday.

Human landmarks

All week, customers have been stopping in, soaking up the nostalgic touches such as the wooden floor and old-time Coca-Cola sign soon to disappear -- and the Krons behind the counter, human landmarks after four decades in the community.

"They are such a super couple and are going to be a tough act to follow," said John August, project director for construction of the newly opened William Donald Schaefer Rehabilitation Center at Kernan Hospital. He has bought lunch at Kron's often in the past two years.

"They always made time for you, asking about your personal life and family," Mr. August said. "You don't get that kind of personal interaction at too many places anymore."

Christopher Kron Jr. was 12 when his father, Christopher Kron Sr., first hung an apron on him. The elder Kron ran a grocery store on West Fayette Street in Baltimore that he had inherited from his father.

Early start

Young Chris studied butchering under his father and made deliveries on his bicycle, always impeccably dressed in a shirt, tie and apron.

"My mother made that apron for me," Mr. Kron recalled. "I would pile those groceries in my bike basket and be on my way."

In 1949, Mr. Kron married his high school sweetheart, Patricia Feeley, and the couple opened their market in Woodlawn in June 1955. They took out a newspaper ad heralding the event and celebrating the continuation of a 41-year tradition in the grocery business.

Mr. Kron's parents closed their store and went to work with the young couple. In those days, the store was a small market offering free delivery.

"We delivered all through Catonsville, Woodlawn and Lochearn," Kron said. "We also had a lot of customers coming from Arbutus, Timonium and as far as Howard County."

As the years wore on, the couple raised three children -- son Michael, 45, and daughters Linda Cahill, 43, and Jackie Miller, 35, all of whom went into careers other than the grocery business. Mr. Kron said he made sure to close the shop for one week a year to take his family on vacation.

Steady business

The Krons, who live in Catonsville, watched as supermarkets sprang up around them, offering all of the items they did -- and more. But business remained steady, and customers remained loyal, Mrs. Kron said, because of the quality of their goods and services.

"Chris and I buy the best food we can buy and sell it like it was for our own family," Mrs. Kron said. "Chris has a sign in the window that says we sell good food, not fast food."

At the request of customers, a deli was added in 1984 and the Krons were on a roll. Business increased and they added modern touches such as microwave ovens and sliding-door soda coolers -- but kept the old items such as the store's original freezer, and Mr. Kron's cutting boards and butcher knives.

'Hard to lose them'

"Certain stores are landmark stores, and people identify an area with the people there," said Bruni Obriecht, co-owner with husband Bill of the nearby Calico Cat store and the Krons' friends for 30 years. "Kron's is certainly such a store. It's going to be hard to lose them."

One recent afternoon, customer Tommy Green lingered just before closing time. As Mr. Kron came from behind the counter, Mr. Green, 35, grabbed him in a hug, tears trailing down his face as he wished him the best.

"I'll miss you, too, Tommy," Mr. Kron said, choking back tears. "I've known you since before you were born."

Pub Date: 4/27/96

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