Sarah Greenberg Katz, 83, co-founder of Wise potato chips distributor

June 09, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

Sarah Greenberg Katz, co-founder, secretary and treasurer of a company that distributed Wise potato chips and other snack foods in the Baltimore-Washington area, died June 3 at Northwest Hospital of complications from a stroke suffered May 14.

She was 83 and lived in Pikesville.

With her husband, Mrs. Katz established Wise Products Distributors Inc. in 1962. The company's owl-logo sign on Aliceanna Street in Fells Point is one of Baltimore's most venerable corporate symbols.

Born Sarah Greenberg in Coney Island, Mrs. Katz attended New York City public schools and was a bookkeeper for the Navy in her home borough, Brooklyn, during World War II.

In 1948, she married Morris Katz of Passaic, N.J., who had begun as a Wise salesman the previous year. In 1962, the Katzes moved to Baltimore and started Wise Products Distributors on Conkling Street. They moved to Aliceanna Street in 1963.

They began with a single truck and eventually expanded into a territory covering the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and Virginia.

The company bought distribution rights to the Washington area from Borden Inc. in 1993.

"They came down here with a brand that was very well received in New York and New England, not so well received in Baltimore and Washington," said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food World, a mid-Atlantic region trade journal based in Columbia. "They moved it forward, which was very difficult. The snack-food business is very competitive. They worked very, very hard and sacrificed a lot."

A son, Fred A. Katz of Ashton, who took over the family business in 1988, said his mother was instrumental in the company's growth, having chief responsibility for its finances. "She was really the working woman before her time, raising a family, taking care of a company," he said.

Even after she and her husband transferred control of the company to their son, Mrs. Katz remained active in its affairs. She retired in 1992 but continued to handle financial work for the business part-time until 1996.

The Katzes lived in Woodlawn, then moved to Randallstown in 1972. Since 1988, they had lived in Pikesville.

Mrs. Katz was buried Monday at King David Memorial Gardens in Falls Church, Va.

In addition to her son, she is survived by her husband; another son, David E. Katz of Owings Mills; and three grandchildren.

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