Thomas G. Tochterman Jr., 85, ran his family's tackle shop

September 12, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

For nearly 70 years, Thomas G. Tochterman Jr. listened to tales of the big one that got away as proprietor of T. G. Tochterman & Sons, Maryland's oldest tackle shop.

Mr. Tochterman, a robust man with silver hair and a wide smile, died Sept. 5 of Alzheimer's disease at his Henderson's Wharf home. He was 85.

Mr. Tochterman spent his life working in the shop at 1925 Eastern Ave., which had been founded as a confectionery store by his parents in 1916.

His father, Thomas G. Tochterman Sr., who also worked at the Booth Fishery in the old Marsh Market, began bringing home unsold fish and selling them to fishermen who traveled by the candy store on trolley cars.

"The trolleys came right by the store, and it was no trouble for someone to jump off, get some fresh peelers or soft crabs and get back on the car," Mr. Tochterman told The Sun in a 1989 interview.

Before long, bamboo poles, floats, spreaders, lines and floats replaced penny candy.

Mr. Tochterman began helping his parents sell bloodworms and, when his father died in 1936, he and his younger brother, Edward, took over the business.

The brothers commissioned Belsinger Sign Works to build the distinctive neon sign with a bass breaking the water that has hung over the store's entrance and become a Baltimore landmark.

The brothers expanded the business. While Mr. Tochterman ran the retail store, his brother went on the road developing a wholesale business.

Open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, the store quickly became a destination for fishermen who dropped in for tackle, licenses, fishing tips and to swap tall tales while looking at rods and reels.

"No one could put a fishing story over on him because he had heard them all a thousand times over," said a son, Anthony W. Tochterman of Fells Point, the third-generation family member to work in the business.

Customers came from all over the country and included luminaries such as baseball players Ted Williams, Don Mattingly, Boog Powell, world-famed fisherman Lefty Kreh and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"He treated his customers as if they were part of his own family and he'd spend as much time with a young kid patiently answering his questions as with a celebrity," said his son.

Mr. Tochterman was born and raised three blocks from the store in a rowhouse on South Ann Street and was a 1930 City College graduate.

Until the late 1980s, Mr. Tochterman took off Mondays and fished in the Chesapeake Bay.

A memorial service for Mr. Tochterman will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Gallery at Henderson's Wharf, 1000 Fell St., Fells Point.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 64 years, the former Antoinette Kolodziejski; another son, Thomas G. Tochterman III of Sparks; two daughters, Ann Seta of Potomac and Mary Cameron of Falls Church, Va.; a brother, Edward Tochterman of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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Pub Date: 9/12/98

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