About a dozen would-be patrons of Jim Parker's Pub stopped by the Northwest Baltimore liquor store yesterday to buy their favorite beverage. What they got instead was news that it had closed.
The store, at the corner of Liberty Heights Avenue and Garrison Boulevard for 35 years, shut its doors Sunday night. Owner Jim Parker, who played for the former Baltimore Colts and is in the NFL Hall of Fame, said health concerns led to the decision to close the business that had become an institution.
"I'm just tired," Parker, 65, said yesterday afternoon as employees removed bottles of rum, gin and other spirits from the shelves.
Last year, Parker ignored signs of trouble such as falling asleep while waiting on customers. When he ran off the road while driving down Interstate 70 toward Frederick, two men recognized him and offered to take him to a hospital. Parker told them he'd follow in his car.
"But when we got to the hospital and they drove off, I drove off, too," Parker said. He went home and kept quiet about the incident.
"The next day, one of my kids got wind of it, and when I got off at 5 p.m., all 12 of them came here and took me to the hospital," he said. Doctors told Parker he was lucky. Another day and he might have died.
Their diagnosis? A stroke.
Since then, Parker worked one shift a day, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of leaving after midnight. But family and friends were still on him to quit.
"Lenny felt like this business was too much stress on me," Parker said of former teammate and Hall of Famer Lenny Moore. "My kids are glad that I'm doing this. They're calling saying they'll take care of me now."
But Parker's children will have to travel to get to their dad. He plans to move back to his birthplace, Macon, Ga., in early 2000.
Parker would have turned the business over to one of his children, but they all have their careers.
Jimi Parker, 40, the eldest son, managed the store after he graduated from high school. He's now a car salesman for Nationwide dealership.
"He's just been there on a daily basis maintaining the business, and he wouldn't leave on his own," Jimi Parker said of his dad. "Once he gets into something, he puts his all into it. But I think it's just time. He's looking forward to his retirement. He said he'll do some traveling and spend time with his family."
A Walgreens is planned to occupy the spot where Parker's liquor store and bar sit. His kids are glad he sold the business, but some patrons are not.
Patrons tugged on the door handle yesterday afternoon only to learn it was locked. They grumbled about how they'd have to walk eight blocks to find another liquor store.
Shayhana Franklin, 19, of Catonsville said she has been coming to Parker's for about five years to buy snacks and in later years for cigars.
"Everybody loved Jim Parker's," she said. "I'm just sad he's retired. I wanna know why. He was doing good business."
Business was brisk for Parker, a standout guard for the Colts from 1957 to 1968. But he said it was time to put his health first.
Still, he knows he'll miss the liquor business.
"I'll probably be sitting out here in my car for the next two weeks or so till I get it out of my system."