Fader's, the century-old cigar and pipe emporium that has counted H. L. Mencken and Tom Selleck among its clients, has been sold to a Pennsylvania cigar distributor, Ira B. "Bill" Fader Jr., president, said yesterday.
Fader, whose grandfather started the business in downtown Baltimore in 1891, sold the six-store chain to a corporation headed by Lancaster businessman and Baltimore native Michael J. Goeller for an undisclosed amount. Goeller distributes cigars to 80 mini-markets, country clubs and restaurants in central Pennsylvania through Lancaster Venture Corp., which has become part of A. Fader & Son Inc.
Besides adopting the Fader name, the new owner will keep the founding family's moniker on stores from Annapolis to Owings Mills. Goeller, a longtime Fader's customer, plans within two years to open three more stores -- in Bel Air, Glen Burnie and Lancaster -- and possibly a downtown cigar bar.
Goeller, currently chief financial officer of Bullova Technologies in Lancaster, will become president, while Fader will stay on as executive vice president and special adviser.
"It's really bittersweet, to see something I've worked 40 years in that I can't pass on to the fourth generation," said Fader, 67, father of three daughters who work in other fields. "It's been virtually my life, and it's traumatic. But at the same time, it was inevitable."
Since taking over from his father, Ira Fader, in 1959, Fader has opened stores in Towson, Catonsville, Eastpoint Mall, Annapolis and Owings Mills. Store sales have grown each year, most recently benefiting from a resurgence in the popularity of premium cigars. Last year, the 38-employee chain posted a record $5 million in annual sales, Fader said.
Two years ago, when Fader realized none of his daughters had inherited his passion for the business, he started thinking of selling.
He chose Goeller, one of two competing bidders, "because I'm very comfortable with Mike, knowing he's going to continue the philosophy I have had of marketing and merchandising. I would not have sold the company if I couldn't have had a continuing involvement."
Goeller, 41, plans to remodel the Annapolis store, then expand cigar distribution to restaurants in the Baltimore area.
"Bill Fader and I have spent a lot of time together talking about how the business should be run going forward," Goeller said.
Fader's, started by Abraham Fader, first opened on the corner of Baltimore Street and Guilford Avenue. After the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 destroyed the store and neighboring cigar factory, Fader's reopened a year later at 210 E. Baltimore St., where it remained until moving to its current downtown location at 107 E. Baltimore St. in 1972.
That year, the retailer made headlines when pranksters kidnapped Fader's 10-foot fiberglass Indian from outside the downtown store. Police, who found the Indian with a ransom note at a Canton bus stop, called Bill Fader down to headquarters to make an identification. The Indian remains outside the store today.
Pub Date: 2/18/98