Doris Lapides, 89, city store owner and mother of former state senator

August 11, 1999|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Doris Lapides, who operated a popular Southwest Baltimore corner store, died Thursday of heart failure at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. She was 89 and had lived in Bolton Hill.

For 20 years, Mrs. Lapides ran a store on the first floor of a three-story rowhouse at Mount and McHenry streets -- a neighborhood gathering spot where customers often spent their afternoons.

"I always called it the original 7-Eleven," said a son, Julian L. Lapides, a Baltimore attorney and former state senator. "We opened at 7 and closed at 11 at night."

Born in Baltimore into a family that had emigrated from Latvia in the 1870s, the former Doris Racusin spent her childhood in a mixed Jewish and Christian neighborhood on Eagle Street off Wilkens Avenue.

"It was a small Jewish community, but my mother grew up with [billionaire] Harry Weinberg and his brother William," her son said. "Her family were among the founders of the Moses Montefiore Congregation."

Doris Racusin was a student at Western High School when she met Solomon Morris Lapides, a union organizer and clothing cutter at Lebow Brothers men's suits factory. The couple eloped to Atlantic City, N.J., in 1927 and settled on Rosewood Avenue in Park Heights.

Mr. Lapides died in 1939. Mrs. Lapides raised their three children.

"My mother made a decision to go back to her roots and the old neighborhood," Julian Lapides said. "We returned to Southwest Baltimore, and she bought a store. It was a neighborhood of wonderful people and all social classes. Blocks were racially segregated and blacks lived in Vincent Street in close proximity to whites. The neighborhood was primarily German and Roman Catholic because of 14 Holy Martyrs Church."

Mrs. Lapides' sister, Rae Racusin, helped run the store, where customers often bought a quarter-pound of lunch meat but chatted an hour before completing the transaction.

"We never had an electric cooler," Mr. Lapides said. "The iceman delivered blocks of ice for the Coke box. It was my job to chop the ice and drain the cooler."

The store sold Becker's pretzels, Echols ice cream, Schmidt and Koesters bread, 19-pound bags of coal, and kerosene by the gallon for families who heated their homes with portable stoves. Children on their way to parochial school bought penny candy.

"My mother was a very ethical person, and when World War II came, she was a stickler about rationing and weighed out sugar in brown bags," Mr. Lapides said. "She never charged one cent over the [Office of Price Administration] limit."

Mrs. Lapides sold the business in 1960 and became the receptionist at the Jefferson House apartments at St. Paul and 32nd streets. She retired in 1973.

She was an avid reader, keeping long lists of the books she read, and raised house plants.

Services were conducted Sunday.

She also is survived by another son, Joseph W. Lapides of Baltimore; a daughter, Myrna R. Lapides-Braverman of Yeruham, Israel; a sister, Geraldine Racusin Kunes of Woodbine; and two grandchildren.

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