Kenneth C. Brown, who made and sold chocolates and fudge from the basement of his West Baltimore rowhouse for more than 20 years, died Wednesday of heart failure while visiting relatives in Washington.
Mr. Brown, 72, operated a business he jokingly called "Mr. Brown's Chocolate Stuff." He sold his goodies to friends and neighbors in the Edmondson Village area, but he usually gave away more than he sold, friends said.
"I think he just liked seeing everybody enjoying his candy and getting fat," said Rhonda Owens, a neighbor and longtime friend. "He didn't make no diet candy -- what he made was the real stuff."
Mr. Brown converted much of his basement into a candy factory and spent long hours there each evening making fudge, chocolate balls and lollipops.
Neighbors recall smelling chocolate waft through the community. During the summer, Mr. Brown would walk around his Allendale Street neighborhood peddling his candies from a shopping cart.
"He was a master salesman when he wanted to," said his grandson, Samuel Brown of Baltimore. "I don't know why he didn't go into the sales business, because he could talk you into buying anything. He could probably sell the grocery cart if he wanted to."
A large man who usually wore a tan floppy hat and thick glasses, Mr. Brown sold large quantities of candy to merchants in Lafayette Market on Pennsylvania Avenue and at Mondawmin Mall.
He also had handshake agreements with several local fraternities and sororities to provide the sweets at their events.
"He wasn't a big business, and I don't think he wanted to be a big business," his grandson said. "He didn't want to become such a business that he didn't enjoy it or it became overwhelming."
Mr. Brown's mother was a cook for the city school system and his father fixed most of the family's meals, dabbling in his own catering business.
Mr. Brown began making candy in the early 1970s to satisfy his sweet tooth. He later made candy for friends and, at their urging, began to market his goodies. He stopped making candy about two years ago.
"It's the American way. If you're good at something and can turn NTC a buck, why not?" Ms. Owens said. "His was without a doubt better than what those big candy companies make. We thought he should give it a try."
A Baltimore native, Mr. Brown graduated from city public schools and attended the former Morgan State College and the old Cortez Peters Business School. He served in the Army during World War II, from 1944 to 1946.
Upon his discharge, he was a welder for Bethlehem Steel Corp. at Sparrows Point, and a tractor-trailer driver for Penn Trucking Co. and Midway Co. from 1959 until he retired in 1975.
Mr. Brown enjoyed gardening, classical music and opera. Although he never had formal lessons, he taught area youngsters how to play and read music.
"He was not a one-dimensional person," Ms. Owens said. "He had a fascinating personality and used it to help others. No questions asked."
A memorial service is planned for this month.
Mr. Brown was divorced and is survived by three sons, Rodger Brown of Baltimore, Leonard Brown of New York City and Kenneth Brown of Trenton, N.J.; a daughter, Emily Robinson of Westchester, N.Y.; and two grandchildren.
Pub Date: 10/02/98