New deli offers all the market can 'bear' Ice cream and more available at site where Roop's stood

November 15, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The thing that makes New Windsor convenience store owner Larry Cotherman think he will succeed where his predecessor failed is ice cream.

"Every man's 'bear' necessity is ice cream," he said, emphasizing the name of his new store and the product that he believes will distinguish The Bear Essentials deli from the 102-year-old community grocery that preceded it.

Cotherman and his wife, Devra, opened their deli Monday at the former site of Roop's Grocery Store, a New Windsor landmark that had been in the same family for four generations.

Neal Roop, who had run the store as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had done before him, closed Dec. 31, saying, "I just can't keep on not making any money." Most of Roop's customers had long since turned to supermarkets for their groceries.

The Cothermans, who live on Buffalo Road outside town but have a New Windsor mailing address, not only changed the interior of the old grocery store, they also changed the main products.

They continue to sell a limited number of essential groceries. But customers at The Bear Essentials are more likely to leave with food in their stomachs than in their grocery bags.

On the right, as you enter the store from Church Street, is Larry Cotherman's "pride and joy" -- an array of "novelty Hershey ice creams" that can be hand-dipped or sold in half-gallon and smaller packages. In summer, he plans to add soft ice cream, sundaes, milkshakes, frozen yogurt and frozen custard.

The store also has a deli counter where customers can buy subs, cold sandwiches, hot dogs, soups, "chili sometimes," pie a la mode, coffee, cappuccino, cookies and doughnuts.

Cotherman is especially proud of his 39-cent cup of coffee. He also sells a 15-cent Popsicle.

Customers can eat out or at one of three tables with checkered tablecloths near the new picture windows.

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. had breakfast at the deli Friday. "It is certainly great to have a new place with fresh ideas and a fresh look," Gullo said. "A lot of people are going to come right to it. It will fill a need for local citizens -- a gathering spot in the heart of town where they can talk and have coffee. There is something for everyone."

Close to the dining tables, for example, are Devra Cotherman's favorite specialty items -- an assortment of decorative flags that she hopes will appeal to homeowners.

A business is born

The Cothermans have full-time jobs elsewhere. They have no experience running an eat-in deli, entering the business almost by accident.

"I was in the post office one day when Castle Roop [who had owned the grocery store before selling it to his son, Neal] asked me what I thought the building would be worth," Larry Cotherman said. "I told him I didn't know, but I would look inside. I did, and we agreed on a price."

The Cothermans obtained financing from the New Windsor State Bank to assist in the purchase of the property, make renovations and buy inventory.

"I make the deals, she signs the papers," Larry Cotherman said.

His wife nodded. "He always gets me into adventures sight unseen," she said. "It always makes things interesting -- and challenging."

They bought the building July 14, did "extensive remodeling" during the next few months, and opened Monday.

They had planned to call the store This and That, but Devra Cotherman decided on The Bear Essentials listening to Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book" while driving to her job as an executive secretary in Rockville.

The couple maintains the bear theme throughout the store and plans to offer teddy bears as prizes in contests.


Larry Cotherman owns a New Windsor air-conditioning and construction company and did virtually all of the remodeling. He installed new lighting, new insulation, new windows and a dropped ceiling -- giving the store a bigger, brighter look.

The couple also remodeled a four-bedroom apartment above the store, adding a new kitchen and bath. The apartment is rented.

The Cothermans are not finished. They intend to knock out a wall and renovate the store's basement so they can open it as a card and flower shop.

"When you have a friendly atmosphere, it is up to the community to support us as long as we have quality products at a fair price," Larry Cotherman said. "We have no tobacco, no paraphernalia. We want a friendly, family atmosphere -- some place where you can talk, drink coffee and eat doughnuts."

On opening day, he arrived at the store at 4: 30 a.m. Ten minutes later, New Winsor resident John Obrecht entered, winning the honor of becoming the store's first customer.

New Windsor farmers Dave Wiles and Steve Arbaugh had hoped to be first, but milking chores kept them from getting to the store until just before 5 a.m., Cotherman said.

The opening "was overwhelming," Cotherman said. "It was very hard keeping up. None of us had cash-register experience. I had to make a couple of service calls [at his other business], and we had to lock up the cash register briefly. People were very nice" about the problems.

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