William L. Beverley, 76, operated fish, produce store for more than 30 years

September 13, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

William L. Beverley offered a lot more than fresh fish, chicken and vegetables during the more than 30 years he operated Beverley's Fish and Produce store in West Baltimore.

The store "Mr. Bill" ran was a popular establishment that served many needs: It was where the older men of the Upton neighborhood routinely passed time on wooden benches; where youngsters performed odd jobs for candy; and where people unable to afford his wares received long-term credit.

But many went there for another equally important reason: to talk to William Beverley.

"It was a place to go just to meet people and pass the time of day sometimes," said John Nowlin, who has lived in the community for more than 40 years. "He kept it going. Even if you weren't buying anything, it didn't matter. He was a reason to go there."

Mr. Beverley, 76, of West Baltimore died Tuesday of heart failure at Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown.

Beverley's Fish and Produce was in the 700 block of W. Lafayette St., near Fremont Avenue. Across from a church, the store had a brick front, green-striped canopy and crates of fresh produce outside its door.

The store was open seven days a week, about 12 hours a day -- and Mr. Beverley was there most of the time.

"He was very much a businessman, and he loved people and the public very much," said his daughter, Trazana Beverley of New York. "He was an incredibly responsible man."

The store was a throwback to "ma and pa" businesses. His wife, the former Lois May Branch, whom he married in 1943, worked with him much of the time.

Usually with an unlighted cigar in his mouth, Mr. Beverley also loved to tell tales with his manner of storytelling and his somewhat dry sense of humor.

"Sometimes to hear him you wouldn't think he was trying to be funny, but he was," Mr. Nowlin said. "He had no special main thing that he liked to talk about; he just knew a little about everything."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Beverley grew up near the store and graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1942. He served in the merchant marine in the mid- to late 1940s.

He worked as a brick mason for several companies in Baltimore and Washington before opening the store in the mid-1950s.

The business was his pride, and he kept it clean and a bright spot for the community, friends and family said. "It seemed to be more than a source of income for him," said Robert Alexander, a longtime friend who has lived in Upton most of his life. "He took the attitude that if you own something, make it a showplace."

A fire destroyed the store in the early 1990s.

Services were held yesterday.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, William L. Beverley Jr., a brother, Randolph Beverley, and a sister, Blanche Bell, all of Baltimore; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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