Supermarket owner is old-fashioned in the best way: with concern for others

NEIGHBORS

January 28, 2001|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT IS a short ride to a place far away. Down Muddy Creek Road, past the "Stall the Sprawl" signs, the Swamp Circle Saloon and a neighboring restaurant's unfortunately spelled "Super Bowel Special" sign across the way. Then out Shady Side Road.

Renno's Super Market is something of a throwback, and so is its owner, Mohan Grover. It is a general store crammed with beer, wine and spirits over here, batteries, bananas and beefsteak over there. He is an old-fashioned fellow - why, he and his family live over the store, like in the olden days.

His concern for community seems so retro, too, in these selfish times. He has been known for years as the unofficial "Mayor of Shady Side," and two weeks ago, the South Arundel Chamber of Commerce presented him its Gene Hall Community Service Award.

The award was accompanied by an "Executive Citation" from County Executive Janet S. Owens. It said, "Mr. Mayor ... for your outstanding dedication and enthusiastic devotion to the greater Shady Side, Churchton and Deale communities."

Despite the accolades, he greets his customers with modesty and Old World courtliness. He was born in India and came to the United States 35 years ago to study engineering at Howard University. He bought Renno's in 1974.

He insists - it's the mannerly thing -- that a guest meet Cordell Salisbury, the meat cutter in the back of the shop who works under a sign that reads, "If you can cook it, we can cut it."

Charlie Stoll came in and hustled Grover for a donation to Special Olympics. Grover wrote a check almost automatically. Stoll, a Shady Side neighbor, was primed to participate in yesterday's Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park, organized by the Maryland State Police for the benefit of Special Olympics.

Vincent O. Leggett, another customer, said: "Mohan has made tremendous contributions down here, particularly in the area of race relations. He likes to celebrate more of what we have in common rather than the differences."

Leggett works for the Department of Natural Resources, specializing in the history of African-Americans on the Chesapeake.

A jar on the counter was for bills and pennies for El Salvador earthquake relief. A note nearby said that the previous jar collection had raised $149 for the Southern High School Music Boosters.

An earlier jar was stolen a year and a half ago, provoking outrage in the region. So, this jar is anchored to the counter in a gooey wad of tape.

The bulletin board had announcements for a fund-raiser Feb. 4 at St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Shady Side and a benefit concert Feb. 24 at the Shady Side Kiwanis Club for the Tom Swager Medical Fund, helping an area resident in his battle with leukemia. Another notice announced, "Lost Cat. Long hair, brown tabby male, friendly." The cat's name was Skye.

Grover also has been involved in helping Centenary United Methodist Church, just down the road, which was destroyed by fire in April. "It will be rebuilt," Grover said, "although right now it needs lots of help."

He has been busy for many years trying to bring improvements to Muddy Creek and Shady Side roads, both viewed as dangerous by residents. "Now I think they are beginning to realize we have a problem," Grover said of the legislators he has been lobbying. "We have been able to get things done to both roads to the point where some of us now feel we have made a beginning."

He has been in the thick of the fight against a Safeway coming to Deale. "I got involved with that because I live here, not because I have a similar business," he said. "It is too huge a project for a little town like Deale."

Why the fights, the nagging, the jars, the staying current on local needs?

"The motivation? I have this desire to help, to strengthen the community we live in. I think we should all make contributions to the character of our communities. Don't you?"

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