Fannie Price, 89, owned, operated coffee shop, restaurant for 35 years

July 20, 1999|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Fannie Price, who operated a popular coffee shop and restaurant for 35 years, died Friday in her sleep at Genesis Eldercare in Randallstown. She was 89 and previously had lived on Fulton Avenue in West Baltimore.

Until she retired in the 1970s, Mrs. Price was the chef and waitress at Fannie's Coffee Shop, which she established in the 1940s at Woodbrook Avenue and Whitelock Street. The counter seated 15 people.

Customers called her Miss Fannie. They included workers in the neighborhood -- employees at the old Baltimore Transit Co.'s Retreat Street car barn and Parks Sausage Co.

"It was pretty much a one-woman operation," said her great-niece, Myra Owens Queen of Baltimore. "It was unusual at that time for a black woman in Baltimore to own her own restaurant. She was an excellent cook and an astute businesswoman.

"Her routine never varied. She would get on a streetcar six days a week and go to the Lexington Market for her meats and vegetables. She wanted everything she cooked to be fresh," said a niece, Romaine Owens Taylor of Baltimore. "Her customers really loved her cooking and they liked to chat with her, too. She was part of the attraction."

Henry Parks, who founded the sausage company and served on the Baltimore City Council, was a regular customer.

"They corresponded for many years until his death. Every Christmas, she received a huge poinsettia from him," said Mrs. Queen.

Though Mrs. Price worked six days a week, she enjoyed preparing holiday dinners for family members and serving them on her best china and silver.

The former Fannie Owens -- who was one of 15 children -- was born in Baltimore, raised on Etting Street and was a 1927 graduate of Douglass High School.

In 1943, she married the Rev. Junius Gray, founder of New Psalmist Baptist Church, then on Riggs Avenue. He died in 1946.

She then married Frank Price, who worked as a clerk for the state of Pennsylvania. He died in 1972.

Her son, Irvin G. Owens, died in 1987.

Since 1924, Mrs. Price had been a member of Mount Olivet Christian Church, Fremont Avenue and Lanvale Street, where she was an elder and sang in the choir. Funeral services will be held at the church at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to her nieces, she is survived by a grandson, Christopher Owens of Silver City, N.M.; and two great-grandchildren.

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